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Is Ikea Dark Chocolate Vegan?

Maybe they dropped Futura cause of that weird-looking question mark. Ikea's Milk Chocolate and Hazelnut flavors have dairy, but Mörk's ingredients are all vegan.

Maybe they dropped Futura cause of that weird-looking question mark. Ikea’s Milk Chocolate and Hazelnut flavors have dairy, but Mörk’s ingredients are all vegan.

Ikea restaurants are pretty great places to eat. The views are killer (at least in Red Hook and South Philly, the only Ikeas I’ve eaten at recently) and the food is dirt cheap. While they’re not all that vegan-friendly, I’m quite happy with getting french fries, salad, coffee, and a veggie wrap, all for about $6.

I’d also become quite a fan of Ikea’s dark chocolate, Choklad Mörk, which boasts all-vegan ingredients and a respectable enough 60% cocoa content, and is a pretty good deal at 100g for 99¢. After a year or so of eating Mörk, I took a closer look at the nutrition info and was shocked to discover 4mg cholesterol per serving listed in the nutritional information panel.

I always thought dietary cholesterol only occurred in animal products. Yet all of the listed ingredients are vegan. Is there some animal ingredient in the chocolate that is not listed, or is the nutritional breakdown incorrect? (I am assuming that the “may contain traces of egg and milk protein” refers only to shared manufacturing equipment and would not account for such a significant amount of cholesterol being present.) A bit of internet researching reveals that plants do contain a small amount of cholesterol. But it’s a tiny amount.

The Curious Waveform blog cites a study in the Journal of Chemical Education which claims this is uncommon knowledge even amongst chemists, and points out that “the USDA does not state the existence of cholesterol when it is less than 2 mg/serving, which is the case with plant products.”

As Dina Aronson wrote as VegFamily.com “the ratio of plant cholesterol to plant fat in foods is one to 20,000. If we try to measure the ratio of plant cholesterol to the total weight of plants, it would be one in several million. That’s why we round the cholesterol number to ZERO when reporting the nutritional components of food.” (Though elsewhere in another of her undated columns she states “the only way to get dietary cholesterol is from animal products”.)

OK, so I learned some science. But how the hell could plant ingredients equal 4mg of cholesterol per 33⅓g serving?

I wrote to foodservices@memo.ikea.com and asked them about it. A few messages back and forth with Ikea Food representative Josefine Hallberg didn’t help clear things up much. Here’s the salient parts of her responses:

The dark chocolate contains a relatively high amount of saturated fat and thereof comes the small amount of cholesterol that is listed in the ingredients list. The total amount of cholesterol per 100g chocolate is 11mg.

We have been in contact with our supplier of the chocolate and they affirm that the saturated fat comes from cocoa butter, so this has to be seen as vegetarian. The supplier also affirm that they do not add something which is not on the ingredient list.

No, the nutritional analysis is correct. The supplier confirms that the saturated fat (from cocoa butter) contains a small amount of cholesterol (11mg/100g chocolate).

Does this make any sense? Are you (or do you know) a chemist or food scientist or nurtitionist who can help explain what’s going on here?

This is one of Supervegan’s posts for Vegan MoFo 2009.

11 Comments

  1. Comment by

    Saul

    on #

    Ikea are correct! However dont worry chocolate decreases LDL levels (bad ones) and increases HDLs in the blood (the good ones).

    http://www.allchocolate.com/health/nutrition/fats.aspx

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/r8327g20k23u4240/

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/10/011024073452.htm

    Hope that helps!

  2. Comment by

    ST

    on #

    Have you tried the Snöre and Ballerina cookies in the sweden shop? Delicious!
    …or maybe they ae not available in the US?

  3. Comment by

    AJP

    on #

    That sounds really strange to me. I looked up cocoa butter’s nutritional data online (http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/fats-and-oils/570/2) and even 1 cup has 0 cholesterol. I know nutritional labels are hardly an exact science, but the difference between

  4. Comment by

    Rachel

    on #

    Don’t know if you need more reassurance, but my husband is a bio-chemist at cornell, and he says that yes there are traces of cholesterol in cocoa butter and palm oil. They are the only plants that have it though. I recently saw cholesterol on a nutrition breakdown for a recipe in a vegan cookbook, so I asked him. Pretty weird.

  5. Comment by

    Jason Das

    on #

    Saul, it seems your first and third links are about the cholesterol our body makes (quite different from the dietary cholesterol that would be on a nutrition label). Your second link is a bit over my head, but still doesn’t explain why there would be quite so much cholesterol in dark chocolate.

    ST, I haven’t tried those but I’ll look for them!

    AJP, not sure what got cut off the bottom of your comment, but yes, how could there be this much.

    Rachel, can you ask your husband how likely it would be for a 100g dark chocolate bar to contain 11mg of dietary cholesterol?

  6. Comment by

    elainevigneault

    on #

    I wouldn’t eat it. “Cholesterol” listed as part of the nutritional breakdown is a red-flag for me.

  7. Comment by

    Laura

    on #

    Could this be a case of different labeling rules? The USDA doesn’t label less than 2 mg, but perhaps Sweden labeling rules requires inclusion of all cholesterol, and the various trace amounts add up to 4 mg?

  8. Comment by

    Kathi Kontaktbörse

    on #

    I´ve got the same opinion! i would never eat something which contains parts of Cholesterol!

  9. Comment by

    Jason Das

    on #

    Laura, these are labeled with US nutrition info.

    In any case, I’ve looked at plenty of European dark chocolate and never seen cholesterol listed (unless there’s also dairy).

    Elaine, and Kathi–can you back up your feelings with anything rational, or are you just going by instinct?

  10. Comment by

    todd

    on #

    100 grams is 100,000 milligrams. 4 milligrams in 100,000 is .004 Percent! This is effectively Zero, and sounds correct for amount of cholesterol in cocoa butter!
    No worry there!

  11. Comment by

    thrillracer

    on #

    I just purchased an Alprose Dark Chocolate Bar that lists 2% cholesterol. The only allergens it purportedly contains are hazelnuts. It’s Kosher Parve for Passover. There are no animal ingredients is what I’m saying.

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