Monday, September 17, 2007
Mars made a surprising and pleasant announcement this morning, they have come out in support of the current standards of identity for chocolate. That means that no matter what the FDA decides, they will not dilute our sacred chocolate experience with cheap vegetable fats.
I’ll have more later, but I have to say the new venue is really great. It’s spacious and well organized and of course brand spankin’ new. I’m having some connectivity problems at the hotel, so I don’t know how well I’m going to be able to do updates. But I’ll be posting photos from the floor as often as I can.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
It’s simply too hot in Los Angeles right now, and it’s a depressing situation for me here at the home offices of Candy Blog. When I say hot, I mean that it’s actually 90 degrees inside my home right now at 9 PM on Sunday. When I say hot, I mean the prospect of turning on the lights and trying to take photos of chocolate is maddeningly impossible. (We have a single window air conditioner in the house in the bedroom, it’s usually not a problem, but this heat is unrelenting.)
The saddest part of this whole confluence of heat is that I planned a wonderful party for Saturday night to feature some 75 pounds of various Koppers candies (mostly Milkies) in a great Candy Buffet. As if the heat wasn’t bad enough, on Friday afternoon a transformer blew on the power pole in my neighbors yard silencing all the fans in my house. What was 99 degrees with fanning was up to 99 during the blazing stillness of the day on Saturday.
No party. Had to cancel. It just wouldn’t be fair to bring my friends in to bake and swelter in my house even if they were going to end up being sent away with sticky piles of melted chocolate.
The power has returned after 18 hours ... but the worst part is I have no idea if the chocolate has survived. I’ve had it all sealed up inside a large cooler with some ice packs (well, cool packs) and am hoping that the ambient heat hasn’t penetrated the insulation too much. I’m afraid to open anything. (I actually considered taking it to my office ... except that we got a memo on Thursday saying the building would be closed on Saturday because they were replacing the air conditioning unit on the roof and the power would be out. See, it’s a conspiracy.)
Hopefully the heat will break and I’ll be able to set up my candy buffet and show you all the fancy photos and help you with ideas for your next party. I’ve taken this opportunity to escape my sweltering house to explore lots more variations on the candy buffet and candy favors.
But on to other good news in candy!
The Passionate Cook hosted this edition of Sugar High Friday with the theme of Going Local! Browse through the roundup of posts from bloggers around the world on their favorite local sweeties. Most of it is baked but there’s a nice selection of puddings, mousses and of course candies.
I’ve been remiss on posting about international KitKats lately, but don’t worry, Megchan is picking up the slack with Banana, Lemon, Raspberry and Orange and possibly one of the best assortments of HiCHEW, the Citrus Mix!
Business Week actually did an article about how successful brand spinoffs and limited edition marketing has been in Japan (and perhaps what we can learn from that). The article is interesting, but so are the comments that follow.
If that’s not enough candy for you, how about bidding on this lot at eBay of hundreds of pounds of candy, including full cases of M&Ms, Lollipops, Fudge, Reese’s, Tootsie Rolls, Milk Duds, TicTacs ... well, the list goes on and on. The current bidding is a lowball $181.50 but there’s a reserve on it (and a buy-it-now price of $2,150). Free shipping.
British researchers have spent a lot of time and money trying to figure out chocoholism. Why can’t they just let us be!
In a rather different OpEd piece on the FDA and Chocolate dojigger, the Salt Lake Tribune thinks that people should have paid more attention to the other foods listed in the Citizen’s Petition put forth by the Grocery Manufacturers Association. (Ya think?) However, I did a quick search on SLTrib.com and found they’d never covered it either ... so how did they think people were going to find out ... from Candy Blog?
This week’s candy reviews in review:
Monday: Katjes Tropical Gummis & Yogurt Gums (5 out of 10)
Tuesday: Ritter Schokowurfel (8 out of 10)
Wednesday: VerMints (7 out of 10)
Thursday: Candy Source: Chocolates a la Carte (8 out of 10)
Friday: Head to Head: M&Ms vs Koppers Milkies (8 out of 10 & 9 out of 10)
8.33 weekly average ... 50% chocolate content!
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
There was a cool article out of the AP that got featured on Yahoo News and CNN yesterday about the FDA Petition from the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
Bridges did a great follow up on the story, which is refreshing when so many of these issues seem to drop off the face of the map.
You can read the FDA statement that they put out around the time when the public comment period ended.
Here’s the interview I did for NPR last month about it where I think I took an admirable stand against some of the GMA’s positions.
Friday, July 27, 2007
I got up early this morning to do an interview on NPR‘s “Here and Now” with David Boeri and his guest from The Grocery Manufacturers Association. You can listen online. (Read through all my other chocolate change and the FDA stuff here for background.)
Robert Earl, Senior Director of Nutrition Policy for the GMA was rather strong in his position that changing technology is a benefit to us both economically (cheaper food) and to the nutrition profile of foods (healthy!). It’s odd, I’ve never heard “technology” thrown around so much in conjunction with our food. It’s food ... I’d always thought it was low-tech. But I’m kidding myself.
My major beef, and of course I brought it up, was that Mr. Earl stated that the swapping of cocoa butter for vegetable fat was not covered in the petition (at about 1:50 in the timecode):
Seriously? Then why ask for the Chocolate Manufacturers Association’s endorsement? He does go on to make the point that consumers are demanding good quality chocolate, and I don’t argue that’s what we look for in our “chocolate bars”, but this will be very muddy with the lax permissions when you go to the ice cream shop and think you’re getting actual chocolate chips in your chocolate chip ice cream or actual chocolate in your chocolate croissant at the bakery. Anything that uses chocolate as an ingredient will become fair game for the cheaper vegetable fat substitutes.
If you haven’t listened to it (it’s only in RealPlayer, so I totally understand), I made the point that whether or not the GMA specifically laid out that the petition includes chocolate, it is in Appendix C (PDF) and statements from Hershey & the Chocolate Manufacturers Association have indicated that they think that they would be able to under the “safe and suitable vegetable fats.”
In my discussions with the producer before the interview I found out that no one else in the Chocolate Manufacturers Association or Hershey’s wanted to take part in the interview. The Chocolate Manufacturers Association has posted plenty of documents on their site giving their position (PDF) as well as the National Confectioners Association (link), and of course Guittard at Don’t Mess with Our Chocolate has posted a point by point analysis of that (PDF #1 & PDF#2).
In much funner news, I just got a big package of stuff I bought from ArtisanSweets.com. Full picture array here. I got: - Romanego Panned Sweets (cordials, jordan almonds, panned pistachios & pine nuts and coral cinnamon & orange peel), Fig & Almond Nougat from Montelimar, Nutpatch Nougat (already reviewed that!), Alemany egg yolk marzipan with a burn sugar crust, Alemany lavender honey, Hammond’s hand made candy sticks (cola, strawberry, and blackberry/apple). Some of it I’ll review, some of it’s just for eatin’!
The cool thing is that Artisan Sweets is running a sale right now, all Nougat is 10% until Wednesday, August 1st - just enter the coupon code NOUGAT at checkout. One thing I have to say, everything is so wonderfully packaged, it’s like it’s gift-wrapped. Each item is wrapped either in colored tissue and/or purple bubble wrap, all nested in recyclable kraft paper.
Here’s the Weekly Recap of Reviews:
Monday: Dots (5 out of 10)
Tuesday: Jujyfruits & Jujubes (5 out of 10)
Wednesday: Sour Gummi Bears (7 out of 10)
Thursday: The Simpsons Fruit Snacks (5 out of 10)
Friday: Cherry Almondine M&Ms (6 out of 10)
Weekly Average: 5.5 ... 0% chocolate content.
Friday, May 18, 2007
The FDA is considering a petition by chocolate manufacturers to change the very definition of chocolate, which would allow the stuff that we buy called Chocolate to contain alternative vegetable fats (tropical oils) instead of the natural cocoa butter that has always been a part of our chocolate bars.
Submit your comments directly to the FDA here - the deadline is now June 25th.
The Citizen’s Petition under consideration at the FDA (2007P-0085 - Adopt Regulations of General Applicability to all Food Standards that would Permit, within Stated Boundaries, Deviations from the Requirements of the Individual Food Standards of Identity) deals with more than just Chocolate. Chocolate is simply the rallying point. If you haven’t read up on it yet, you can view the brief on what’s covered here in Appendix C (PDF). Unfortunately the FDA has not released that file for public review, but it’s alluded to in the original Petition (PDF).
Change Product Appearance
Alternative Procedures for Production
Some aren’t so bad. I don’t see why they can’t call a small loaf of bread a loaf and it’d be nice to be able to get whole pineapple in a can. But I don’t know what enzyme modified egg yolks are, and I don’t think I want them if I can have regular egg yolks. I don’t think I want anti-mycotic treatments in my milk products either, my only experience is using some sort of anti-mycotic additive to the paint on my bathroom walls, and though it was attractive and works well, I’m not going to drink it. And please, leave my yogurt alone.
Submit your comments directly to the FDA here - the deadline is now June 25th.
You can check out my appearance on KCRW’s Good Food this Saturday, May 19th (and online here).
Saturday, May 5, 2007
The newspapers are still latching onto the story. Browse through a few stories:
Contra Costa Times: Fudging Chocolate by Janis Mara
The Missoulian: Don’t deceive us with ersatz ‘chocolate’
News with Views: Heart Attack Chocolate by Jon Christian Ryter
About: Chocolate Lovers Unite, then Write the FDA by Kathy Gill
San Jose Mecury News: Chocolate change would leave bad taste
It’s important to keep the coverage going through blog posts and message boards and letters to the editor. The story should saturate the news so that the comments at the FDA will ultimately reflect the citizens and not just manufacturers.
Monday, April 30, 2007
There was an extremely interesting comment left over the weekend on this post.
It had a quote from Hershey’s asserting their position in 2000 that chocolate should not be adulterated with vegetable fats or milk protein fillers.
Back in 1999 the USDA worked on something called the Codex for Proposed Standards for Cocoa and Chocolate Products that met for several years as an international body. The US had quite a few delegates for this and those who weren’t in attendance still offered their comments.
But whatever it was is kind of a side story, because the point is that Hershey has not always been on the bandwagon to sell mockolate to unsuspecting Americans.
On August 28, 2000 Stanley M. Tarka, Jr, PhD (Senior Director Food Science & Technology) filed an official statement as a member of the Hershey Foods team.
Other comments on file:
Lyn O’Brien Nabors (Executive Vice President) of the Calorie Control Council was pushing the support of alternative sweeteners, specifically looking to add Sucralose and Alitame to the list of approved sweeteners. (Don’t know what Alitame is? I had to look it up, it’s not approved for use in the US by the FDA.) (link)
Edward S. Seguine (Vice President) of Guittard Chocolate Company said pretty much what Hershey’s guy said. They were against any adulteration of the standard, and if things were allowed to change, then they’d better be clearly labeled on the front of the package (which is pretty much the way they are now). (link)
Paul Michaels (President) of M&M Mars had a lot to say ... four pages. In short, his recommendation was a hybrid of the current petiton at the FDA. He supported the swapping of cocoa butter with up to 5% vegetable fat, use of a wide range of milk products, other edible foodstuffs, a wide range of sweeteners and the use of polydextrose. Basically, if they got their way back then there’d be far less chocolate in M&Ms than there is now. (I had to look up polydextrose too, it’s a filler. It contains sorbitol which has a known laxative effect. It’s often used to make placebos.) (link)
Richard R. Rio (Associate Director of Regulatory Affairs) of McNeil Specialty Products Company wants Sucralose to be permitted in chocolate. Small wonder, McNeil makes Sucralose. (link)
Robert M. Reeves (President) of the Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils, Inc. supports the use of up to 5% vegetable fats. No surprise there either. (link)
Kenneth Mercurio (Director, Regulatory & Nutrition) of Nestle said “Allowing 5% vegetable oils is a step in this direction to modernize the chocolate standards in the US.” They also do not support the use of an language on the label that would notify consumers of this. It strikes me that Nestle, as an international company would want a standard throughout all of its territories. But I don’t want modern chocolate. (link)
So I’m left with the feeling that Hershey & Guittard are the only CMA members who wanted to keep our chocolate real. And the only thing that seems to have changed in the intervening years is that Hershey has taken a complete 180 degree turn on the issue.
Hershey has been under huge pressures. In 2002 the Hershey Trust attempted to sell the company (but was stopped by public opinion). Currently they are downsizing, consolidating and outsourcing. They company is not losing money or anything, it’s just not growing, not keeping its other investors happy (seriously, the Trust doesn’t need any more money).
Without the backing of Hershey, the CMA lost its largest voice for traditional chocolate. This is not the Hershey’s I grew up with.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.