Some chocolate bars are flawless in their composition. My case in point: the regular Twix bar. That nice sweet-ish neutral cookie center, coated with just the right amount of caramel, then wrapped in a thin layer milk chocolate. Many bars overdo it on the chocolate to caramel to cookie ratio, but not Twix. That’s why it’s my favorite chocolate bar. That’s also why it’s so unfortunate for me that in the ’90s, Mars, Inc. decided to start manufacturing these magic bars in facilities that also processed peanut products–not ideal for those of us who suffer from fatal peanut allergies. Oh, the disappointment. There I was, a high school student on my break, holding my Twix bar, just wrestled out of a vending machine hellbent on giving me nothing for my money. I took a bite. Seconds later, the painful tingling in the throat. ‘What the hell?? This is regular Twix.‘ I thought. I took meds to stop the reaction and looked at the packaging, puzzled. Boldfaced writing near the ingredients caught my eye: “May Contain Peanuts.” Well that wasn’t there before…
This was the very beginning of the tell-all label era. While I was red-hot pissed that Mars, Inc. couldn’t keep peanuts out of their peanut-less candy bars, I did appreciate the clear labeling that was popping up on more food products. Of course, the labels have become ridiculous over the years. Out of all the chocolate candies sold in the United States, maybe one or two don’t have the statements “May Contain Peanuts” or “Manufactured in a Facility that Processes Peanuts.” Trust me, I’ve looked. I’m convinced that every single chocolate/candy company that makes their stuff in the US puts these statements on their labels to cover their asses whether their products are processed with peanut or not. Eyeroll.
Hershey, which makes the US’s Kit Kat bars (Nestle makes Kit Kat for the rest of the world), also started pulling the same crap on peanut allergy sufferers by putting the same statements on its Kit Kat labels (these damning statements have yet to appear on Hershey Hugs; thank God for small favors).
So I gave up my beloved Twix along with my well-liked Kit Kats during the mid-90s. I did, however, discover a window of opportunity that I would exploit for years to come: Twix and Kit Kat manufactured outside the US were peanut-free! I’d pick up one of these bars during my trips and vacations out of the country and savor it, comfortable in the knowledge that no allergic reaction would follow. Where were they made, exactly? I couldn’t say. All I knew was that the ingredients were written in English, French, Italian, Polish, Russian, Serbian and Arabic, and the word ‘peanut’ was never anywhere to be found (if you’re wondering how I know, I’ve memorized the word for the offending legume in many languages). Every time a relative comes back from a trip to Europe, they know to bring me a few Twix bars, but I worry that eventually even the Old World will catch onto using peanut as filler.
In Canada, where plenty of peanut-free chocolate candies are available to the public, I can find peanut-free Kit Kat. But in the US, still not available. The last time I was in Orlando, I found myself wandering a little fake patch of British soil (read: UK Pavilion at EPCOT, Disney World). I walked into a shop selling UK goods, and on my way out my eye caught a flash of red: a stack of Kit Kats at the register. I turned to my husband and wondered aloud, “Ya think they import those Kit Kats?” I picked one up and read the label. Sunny Global Diva 1, Peanut 0. Of course, this Kit Kat bar that normally costs around 80 cents in the US cost $3 in “England.” Then again, these 3-dollar Kit Kats won’t send me to the hospital. I grabbed a pair and happily overpaid for my peanut-free candy. It’s true what they say about Disney World–happiest place on Earth.