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Apr 2, 2007 09:04 PM

FDA changing chocolate rules?

Cybele, who writes The Candy Blog, is reporting that The Chocolate Manufacturers Association is trying to get the Food & Drug Admin. to relax rules about what can be called chocolate. Vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter would be ok. The Candy Blog website has some links to the FDA for public comments.

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  1. The Chocolate Manufacturers Association's loyalty is to manufacturers who want to sell more products. The FDA is easily swayed by manufacturers, if you read through the approval
    and appeals process for many products (all available online). Heck, a Hershey Bar isn't even legitimately chocolate: it's made from what's known as "compound."

    8 Replies
    1. re: maria lorraine

      Maria Lorraine - it is sobering to think that the FDA is helping the industry sell substandard product to consumers.

      However, we'll have no room to complain if we don't do the very minimum, which is lodge our comments with the FDA!

      If you're a blogger or have a site, I've also created some cute little icons you can display on your site to help get the word out.

      Check out all the info at (by the way, that site is hosted by Guittard ... also a member of the CMA, but who has obviously been outvoted, so he's counting on the people helping out).

      Thanks for posting BangorDin!

      1. re: maria lorraine

        I think you are confusing chocolate "crumb" which is standard intermediate step in chocolate manufacturing and "compound" which is that awful waxy coating. A Hershey bar is definitely chocolate. In fact, in the US, Hershey's also makes Cadburys.

        1. re: mlgb

          Let's put aside for the moment the confusion on industry definitions of various chocolate manufacturing terms (compound, flake, etc.)

          The first issue here is erosion in flavor and sensory quality. Chocolate with vegetable oil won't taste as good or have the aromatics or other sensory qualities that chocolate made with cocoa butter has.

          The second issue is profit for domestic chocolate manufacturers. Ironically, changing the regulation doesn’t make sense from a financial standpoint either.

          The CMA and FDA seem to underestimate the American people when it comes to the single foodstuff that is liked more than any other in this country. Chocolate is a revered, craved, worshipped product, and Americans are willing to pay for a quality, sensual food experience, especially when it comes to “indulgence” items. Ben & Jerry's and Haagen-Dazs ice cream brands became popular because of their flavor and emphasis on quality ingredients.

          So the proposed regulation is completely inconsistent with these purchasing behavior patterns and the current prevailing wisdom of the American people -- that raw ingredients, quality and flavor are important.

          That desire for quality and flavor has already caused an explosion in sales of imported chocolate in the last five years.

          Domestic chocolate is already perceived as inferior to the import brands. Any further loss of flavor resulting from the substitution of an inferior ingredient runs the risk of completely turning off American consumers to domestic chocolate and sending more of them straight to the import brands.

          In an odd twist, approving the vegetable oil regulation for chocolate could actually erode, not build, the domestic chocolate market.

          Which means this regulation change is the exact opposite of the direction in which the industry should be headed to satisfy American consumers and to keep domestic chocolate sales up.

          If anything, the CMA and FDA should make domestic chocolate manufacturing standards more stringent and quality-oriented, so as not to lose even more sales to the import market.

          I urge you to use the easy online comment form at the FDA and share your thoughts
          or copy any of mine above. Here's the direct link:

          1. re: maria lorraine

            I have to politely disagree that the prevailing wisdom among Americans is that quality and flavor matter. True, more and more people are starting to value quality ingredients, but I still think this is the small minority. Prevailing wisdom, from what I've observed is that Americans will eat anything put in front of them. I've seen this played out so many times its nauseating.

            As for the change in the chocolate SOI, yes it's wrong. But I personally don't really care what Hershey's, Nestle, et al do. Their "chocolate" is crap anyways. I always check labels, I know what ingredients are in my food, I don't eat their chocolate now, and I don't expect to in the future.

            Buyer beware. Check labels, get educated, know what you're eating and where it came from.

            1. re: jennywinker

              I agree. At my office, my few good friends and I only eat with Maison du Chocolat, Callebaut, Valrhona, etc., (which I keep hidden in a cabinet) but in my public candy dish, the Snickers and Hersheys win out over Dove. Go figure!

              1. re: jennywinker

                I agree with your disagreement. Perhaps in this Chowhound world, most of us will look for quality and pay for it. But the majority of chocolate eaters in this country will go for the Hershey's. Every time someone calls a Hershey bar "chocolate, " I'm still a little shocked since I don't think of anything made by Hershey as chocolate. But they don't understand my shock at all, since Hershey is the definition of chocolate for so many people.

                1. re: slacker

                  Y'know, regardless of our turning up our collective noses at a Hershey bar, it's STILL chocolate, i.e. it doesn't contain vegetable oil and it's head-and-shoulders above the Australian candy bar (WITH vegetable oil) that I bought recently at Economy Candy. Not everyone wants or can even afford high-end chocolate (e.g. children)--how does it follow that the quality of what they CAN afford should be legally lowered because some of us don't eat it? I think it's a safe bet that everyone posting here grew up on real chocolate, even if it wasn't high quality. Why can't future generations have the same privilege? Why subject them to the culinary Newspeak attendant on a lower standard than we knew? How can we, as people who claim to care about food, be so dismissive of this?

          2. Ugh! My husband's a fan of Cadbury Flake, which is just disgusting to me, and I'm afraid that's the kind of waxy not-really-chocolate thing we'll get with relaxed rules.

            8 Replies
            1. re: Cinnamon

              Cadbury Flake is made from Cadbury Dairy Milk. It isn't even made in the US. The ingredients are (from the manufacturer's website).

              Legal description: ‘Dairy Milk’ Milk Chocolate

              Ingredients: Sugar, Milk Solids, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass, Flavours, Cocoa Solids 28%, Milk Solids 27%

              That's pretty much the definition of milk chocolate.

              Sure does seem to be a lot of misinformation on this posting.

              1. re: mlgb

                Wow, there sure is. Cadbury flake contains vegetable fat:
                Milk, sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, vegatable fat, emulsifier.

                That's from:

                See also this for a better breakdown of the veggie fats:

                It's one of a range of British sweets that I think are, well, not so good.

                This article from 2000 discusses Flake in the course of describing how in the EU "a key parliamentary panel backed a plan to allow the inclusion of vegetable fats in chocolate... EU governments and the European Commission approved a provisional deal last October to allow chocolate to contain up to five percent non-cocoa vegetable fats."

                1. re: Cinnamon

                  I apologize if I wasn't clear enough when I referred to imported chocolate. Implied was that the imports were high quality (Michel Cluizel, Valrhona, El Rey, Dagoba, to name only a few) not a Hershey-type import like Cadbury.

                  But the issue is the regulation and if that's good for American consumers and manufacturers. Let's put the focus on that. As always, there is room for a variety of opinions.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    If the definition of chocolate is relaxed here in the U.S., the type of product allowed will be even more remote from true chocolate than something such as the Cadbury Flake product I mentioned earlier - that's why I mentioned it. It's been a classic product cited in Europe-UK tug-of-wars over the definition of chocolate.

                    If chocolate rules are relaxed here, in addition to a product that doesn't taste good, we may end up with products that can't be exported unless they bear disclaimers, such as what happened in the UK. (Though I would expect exports to be minimal in relation to domestic consumption.)
                    Here's a CNN article about how sales of such Cadbury products were once actually *restricted* elsewhere in Europe.

                    That's important context for what's happening here in the U.S.

                    Lax UK regulations (in line with purported local tastes) allow products to be called a form of chocolate though they have a lower cocoa content than elsewhere in Europe and can replace up to 5% of the cocoa butter with vegetable fats. However, when UK chocolate of that nature is sold in other EU countries, it has to bear different names (like "family milk chocolate" in the first case and a disclaimer about the vegetable fats, in the second case).

                    1. re: Cinnamon

                      If the regs are changed, they don't actually FORCE any manufacturer to use vegetable fats, do they? As long as they have to list the ingredients on the label, I really don't care. I've seen the Cadbury chocolates from England with the small percentage of vegetable fats. We actually did a recent taste test between New Zealand-made Cadbury Dairy Milk (which had no vegetable fat) and the English variety. It was pretty hard to distinguish them, but there was a peculiar malty flavor in the English variety which is distinctive.

                      1. re: mlgb

                        On the one hand, I think manufacturer freedom's great. On the other, I wonder how far it goes before it's kind of fraudy. That's what I worry (well, not actively every moment though) about chocolate.

                        - There was that recent lawsuit by a lawyer that found some guacamole had less than 2% avocado. (Should that be illegal? Don't know, but in my view a reasonable person would expect more than 2% avocado in guacamole.)

                        - Several brands of peanut butter take out the peanut oil (which I believe they can sell for more) and put in soy oil.

                        - I think I recall picking up some cheese - maybe marketed as a Mexican cheese variety - that contained mostly hydrogenated vegetable oils and I don't recall seeing any dairy in there. (That said, I don't know the cheese laws, such as they may be.)

                        Given present-day concerns about trans-fats and other vegetable oil topics, I think it's important to health that consumers aren't misled.

                        1. re: mlgb

                          No manufacturer in the EU has been FORCED to use vegetable fat as a substitute for cocoa butter in chocolate production. No one has noted that this regulation applies specifically to the manufacturing of "coverture"--solid bar chocolate--that can be sold as is or used as an ingredient in "bon bons" or "finished" chocolates. But allowing lesser chocolate (with veg oil) to declare "Chocolate" on their label wreaks havoc with the integrity of those producers of coverture who do NOT use vegetable oil. Vegetable oil costs about 10 times less than cocoa butter, and cocoa butter can be sold to the pharmacutical industry for use in beauty products (lotion, make up, etc). If a candy maker can declare "chocolate" on their bon bon label when using one of the lesser chocolate, how is that reconciled with better coverture manufacturers who produce "pure" chocolate and have to deal with market fluctuations based on "impure" chocolate products that can legally be labelled in the same way? High end couverture manufacturers in the EU often make a big deal about how they refuse to compromise their standard and continue to use ONLY cocoa butter (Valrhona, LMDC, etc). But a confectioner can use a lesser couverture, and still call it "chocolate."

                          It should also be noted that the vegetable fat must be hydrogenated to perform in a simlar way to cocoa butter. (More trans fats, anyone?) The hydrogenated vegetable fat may extend the shelf life and temperature range of chocolate (hydrogenated veg fat won't "bloom" like cocoa butter can).

                          The malty flavor was a result of the type of milk powder used in the UK-made Cadbury product, not in the type of fat in the couverture.

                      2. re: maria lorraine

                        Dagoba is in Ashland, Or. Their chocolate is great!

                2. Does anyone have past experience with this kind of circumstance in "officialdom" ? Does the FDA usually side with business, or will public input sway them?
                  Is the Internet the best way to publicize this?

                  I think France/the European Union already confronted this issue, and a compromise resulted.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: BangorDin

                    I'm not sure if the internet is the best way ... but it's the way we've got. I know that there was an article in the LA Times last month about a similar issue with disclosure of all ingredients for wine:


                    In that instance it appears that the new regs are consumer-oriented.

                    I know that if we don't respond in some way the FDA will proceed with what the CMA wants as our silence would be our endorsement. The deadline for the open comments is April 25th.

                    I think that using our own words and different points about why this is bad for consumers is the most helpful. A blast of cut & paste text is probably not going to impress them with our "true feelings" in the matter. I don't think it has to be long either, just a simple statement that you don't approve ... or even the concerns that you have about the dilution of the labeling standards (in case you do approve).

                    I know that the EU has different standards, but one this is clear, no one on earth thinks that chocolate made with hydrogenated oil is BETTER than cocoa butter.

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      This is clearly an issue of multi-nationals using the organizations that they fund to compel the FDA to allow for a change in recipe. Why would they do this? Because the growth among mass marketers has been flat to down, they need to take cost out to "create earnings growth." Meanwhile, the small chocolate makers -- gourmet and prestige are growing.

                      IMHO, it's not sufficient to merely say that we don't like the change. We need to be specific about why and be clear about who is harmed.

                      1. re: typetive

                        I sent them a comment saying,

                        "I am absolutely against changing the standards for chocolate. Cocoa butter is a crucial part of chocolate. Just imagine what white chocolate - which already lacks cocoa liquor - would be like if companies were allowed to eliminate the cocoa butter too and make it with just sugar, milk, and vegetable fat! Hershey's is free to put whatever it wants in its products now; it can replace the cocoa butter with motor oil and see if that sells. But it should not be allowed to call such a product chocolate.

                        "Big companies like Hershey's know that consumers will pay more and be quicker to grab a product if they think it has chocolate in it. Letting them label inferior products "chocolate" would be like letting companies label a mixture of corn syrup, chemicals, and water "juice." The latter has to be labeled in a way that lets consumers know that it is not, like "juice drink" or just "beverage." I see those items in the store, and I walk away and look for the bottles that have "100% juice" on them. I see items that say "Chocolatey flavor!" on them and I walk away and look for the actual chocolate.

                        "Personally, I would rather that the labeling laws were stricter. I don't appreciate the ways that companies can still try to trick me by sneaking the words "juice" and "chocolatey" onto their labels next to words like "flavor" and "drink." If the FDA wants to change identity standards for food, it should consider making them more clearly defined, not blurring the definitions with deviations that are designed only to put more money into big corporations' pockets at the consumers' expense."

                        I am glad that it seems like a lot of people are sending them comments because there are so many different aspects to the situation. Corporate greed, the importance of protecting chocolate's good name, protecting our tongues from mockolate, corporations pressuring government groups to change things to suit them, consumer confusion over what is in chocolate, the utter grossness of what they would like to put in chocolate....

                        You know, when the typical consumer is scared by wasabi or bacon *added to* chocolate, it's pretty frustrating that these people can put weird cheap-ass vegetable fats in there and take vital parts of the chocolate out and think that will be just fine.

                    2. There was an article in the LATimes (front page) on Saturday:


                      See's has joined with Guittard to protest the potential degredation of the chocolate standards.

                      For anyone who wants to join in the fun, I'm running a raffle (a $100 chocosphere gift cerfiticate) for those who file their thoughts with the FDA.


                      Info on how to file your thoughts with the FDA are here on Guittard's Don't Mess With Our Chocolate site:


                      Keep it Real!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: typetive

                        Thanks for the Don't Mess With Our Chocolate link! I just submitted my comment to the FDA.

                      2. This is quite riduculous. Most companies have already removed the peanut oil from peanut butter and replaced it with trans fat. Now, they want to ruin chocolate. What's next?
                        Butter: milk proteins, trans vegetable fat
                        Pure Fruit juice: flavoring, water, high fructose corn syrup, food coloring, 30% orange juice
                        Pure maple syrup: high fructose corn syrup, coloring, 30% maple syryp, flavoring

                        How can anyone not see how riduculous this is?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: thinfine

                          Which companies have replaced peanut oil with transfats? And, when was peanut oil an ingredient in peanut butter? Peanuts with their oils, sure, but most PB has been made with vegetable oils so far as I know for quite a while.

                          Pure maple syrup is just that. Products are not allowed to be labeled "pure maple syrup" unless they're pure maple syrup. Pure fruit juice can be from concentrate, but still can't have corn syrup or coloring added.

                          There are enough issues with finding good chow without throwing up red herrings about products. how about we stick to the actual issues.

                          replacing cocoa butter with vegetable oils/fats seems like it would be the absolutely wrong way to go to me. As has been pointed out, companies are already free to include what they wish so long as they label it appropriately....why change the definitions? how does that make anything better?