Ask The Pharmacist: Can you eat dark chocolate if you have a milk allergy?

Suzy Cohen

Dark chocolate is a staple in my house. What are you supposed to do if you’re allergic to milk, and want to eat dark chocolate? It’s a good question.  

Milk is allowed as an ingredient in “dark” chocolate, but sometimes it produces a harmful allergy in dairy-sensitive individuals. The reality is that most chocolates contain some milk, and it’s undisclosed. 

The FDA tested 100 different brands of dark chocolate bars, and they specifically tested it for the presence of milk. Of these 100 bars, only six of them listed the ingredient of milk! The other 88 bars did not disclose milk as an ingredient, yet 51 of them contained milk. Dairy-tainted chocolates are among the most frequently reported allergic reactions.

Dark chocolate raises endorphins.

It’s unfortunate, but true that milk can get into a dark chocolate product even when it’s not directly added. The problem happens because the dark chocolate is often produced on the same equipment that makes their milk chocolate bars. And traces of milk often inadvertently wind up in the dark chocolate batter. It’s essentially a problem of cross-contamination.

My best suggestion to you is to completely avoid dark chocolate (if you’re allergic to milk or dairy) unless the brand you’re buying is made on equipment dedicated to dark chocolate bars only. This is hard to find, but possible. 

It’s difficult to place your trust in the food industry. They don’t mean to make people sick, but their laziness or sloppiness can lead to pain and suffering for some of you. As a result, you see warnings on the label that serve as a wink of sorts. This product “may contain dairy” or “may contain traces of milk” or this one, “manufactured in a facility that uses milk.”  There are others but if you’re my best friend, I would tell you to replace the word “may” with “probably!” 

Certain types of dark chocolate could improve stress levels, inflammation, mood, memory and immunity, according to new research.

The take home message is you should not assume that your dark chocolate is free of milk, and you should not consume it if you have serious allergic reactions to milk, regardless of the label. 

I have a checklist of 14 alias names for milk-derived ingredients which may be hidden in your food. My list will help you find undisclosed milk in your candy bars and chocolates. If you’d like to receive that as well as the longer version of today’s article, sign up for my newsletter at and I will email this to you next week. 

I’ll also tell you why some chocolate bars aren’t good for vegans. Here’s a fun fact, white chocolate doesn’t contain any cacao whatsoever, it’s just a combination of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, but no cocoa solids like dark and milk chocolate have.

Bar of dark chocolate

It’s something to avoid if you’re dairy-intolerant or allergic to milk. In closing, when it comes to dark chocolate, the dairy free claims and statements on the label are best completely disregarded if the manufacturer fails to use dedicated machinery and equipment due to cross-contamination.

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit