Tuesday, April 17, 2007
I just wanted to follow up with the news that of the grand prize in the Keep it Real Raffle.
I’ll have more word on other prizes soon!
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
There’s been some news on the FDA Chocolate Standards change since my last post.
First, Guittard Chocolate Company has issued a press release. Below is a quote from Gary Guittard, the fourth generation chocolatemaker:
But what I thought was especially interesting was this point that the release also brought up:
Go read the whole thing.
There are a few things to remember. The new standards will expand the definition of chocolate, which will still include the current standards. This means that the chocolate that we know and love may continue to exist by those manufacturers that have customers who value their quality product. However, because of the new latitude, the cocoa butter which we know and revere for its unique mouthfeel may be replaced in part or total by other vegetable fats in products on the market that you already purchase.
I know, an oil is an oil right? You use them interchangeably all the time! Making a salad dressing? Olive oil is the same as partially hydrogenated coconut oil, isn’t it? Of course not! If you wouldn’t do it to your salad, why on earth would you do it to your chocolate?
The permission to substitute is a degradation of the already liberal standards for chocolate. It provides no benefit to the consumer. I’ve said this before, it’s perfectly legal for a confectioner to make a coconut oil based mockolate product and sell it right now. Why do they want to call it chocolate? For you? No, it’s for them to be able to sell you a cheaper product under the same name as a well-respected and high quality product. Sure, you’ll know it just by reading the ingredients, but when I buy something called orange juice, I expect the juice of oranges. When I buy chocolate, I expect the whole bean elements to be present.
In the mean time, I’ve also been doing my darndest to get a hold of the actual FDA document that we’re supposed to be commenting on. I know it seems silly, but don’t you think that the FDA has an obligation to post the document for public review within the window for public comment? Keep an eye on this page, perhaps it will be posted soon.
I’ve also contacted the Chocolate Manufacturers Association for their comment on this and I’ll have more to report on that. (I got a response, I just need to go through it completely.)
Monday, April 9, 2007
I thought I’d put together a list of the conversations I’ve seen out there about the FDA’s proposed shift in the definition of chocolate to include products without cocoa butter. Thanks to everyone for the linky love on the issue!
David at DavidLebovitz.com
Nic at BakingBites
Coasting Granny at Grannie’s Tasties
jsu at Topix.net
Kate at AccidentalHedonist.com
Meg at NotMartha.org
MFred33 at Center of the Universe
Noirbettie at Through the Looking Glass
Can I just say Wow! It makes me feel like we’re mobilizing ... that we might actually be heard on the issue. (Those were in no particular order and I may have some blog names wrong.)
On the other side of the fence we have some interesting commentary (and I totally understand some of their points):
Hopefully I’ll be updating this list or posting a new one as the word spreads. Remember, April 25th is the deadline for comments. (Anyone who’s posted about it is eligible for a raffle ticket for my Keep it Real Raffle, too!)
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Finally there’s some big media coverage of the FDA’s new proposal to replace cocoa butter with other vegatable fats.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Here’s the proposal ... I’m going to do another drawing for some free tasty goodies.
I don’t know what the actual prize is yet, but I can tell you that it will be GOOD chocolate.
How can you get some? You have to help get the word out about the open comment period on the FDA’s proposed changes for the definition of chocolate.
(Don’t worry, I’m not telling you what to say, you can go on there and comment in support of mockolate if you want. I want the FDA to actually hear from the citizens who buy the stuff and not just the industry action groups.)
For each one of the actions below, you can earn a virtual raffle ticket. The more you do, the better your chances:
Submit your comment to the FDA by April 25th (Leave a comment here - I’d love to hear what you say, but I respect privacy concerns)
Blog about the issue. (Leave a comment here with the link.)
Put a graphic or link (use one I created or one of your own) to http://www.DontMessWithOurChocolate.com on your site/blog/myspace/facebook/flickr profile. (Leave a comment here with a link to your website.)
Post in a forum about the issue with the link, or if there’s already a discussion going, post within the existing thread to keep the conversation going. (Leave a link here to the forum thread or if it’s a private forum, at least to the site.)
Here are a few extra rules:
Please do not comment on the FDA site if you’re not in the United States or an American living abroad. That doesn’t mean that folks outside US can’t enter, you just don’t qualify for that particular point. (I could be wrong about foreigners commenting ... someone correct me.)
You are limited to five entries (though you’re free to make greater efforts, but only the first five will count).
You are responsible for calculating your “raffle tickets”. Just come here and leave a list of your deeds (you don’t have to list them all on the same day).
You must comment with a valid email address, don’t worry, no one sees it but me (how else can I tell you that you won?).
Final note, the object of this challenge is not to create a bunch of empty chatter, but to just widen awareness of this issue by engaging you, sweet readers, to pass the info along. So keep in mind that we’ll all win if we Keep It Real.
Deadline for all comments here is April 25th at 11:59 PM PDT.
UPDATE 4/17/2007: The first prize will be a $100 Gift Certificate to Chocosphere
Also, since folks have asked, yes emailing your friends also qualifies. (Just don’t spam them over and over again ... but you wouldn’t do that.)
UPDATE 4/26/2007: Contest entries are now closed. I’ll announce a winner later. Since the comment period has been extended by the FDA I’ll start a new raffle with a new prize.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
I’ve been doing much more research on the issue of the FDA allowing chocolate companies to sell us chocolate that doesn’t contain cocoa butter. First, there’s nothing stopping confectioners from creating a product that contains cocoa solids and other fats. It’s perfectly legal. They want the FDA’s blessing to confuse consumers by letting them call an inferior product CHOCOLATE.
I read over the “Citizen’s Petition” (PDF) on the FDA website for 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. This is what it says:
I’m not sure which ‘consumers’ they’re talking about when it comes to our generally held expectations about the precise technical elements of chocolate, but I’m pretty sure the majority of chocolate consumers would be able to tell the difference between mockolate and chocolate - both by looking at the label but more importantly by tasting the product. (I will grant you that I’ve had passably good mockolate from Guittard and Wilbur, which is useful your home kitchen when you don’t want a chocolate that you need to temper, like with dipped strawberries.)
And which citizens are saying this to the FDA on our behalf? Well, that’d be our good neighbors:
Food Products Association (merged wtih Grocery Manufacturers Association)
Grocery Manufacturers Association (merged with Food Products Association)
But let’s get back to the simple fact that the confectionery companies can make mockolate and sell it right now. So ask yourself, why do they want to call it chocolate? Because it saves on printing costs to simply say “chocolate” instead of “chocolate flavored coating”? Or is it because vegetable oil substitutes cost 70% less than cocoa butter? (source)
If you’re curious about the current definitions, Hershey’s even has it all spelled out very well on their site.
The FDA is The Nation’s Premier Consumer Protection & Health Agency ... the open comment period on this proposed shift is our opportunity to keep the CONSUMER in mind.
Monday, April 2, 2007
So, if you saw my post about mobilizing folks to respond to the FDA about changes in the definition of Chocolate and you want to help, here are some little pretty images you can post on your site or blog or use in your sig line on forums. Link to the www.dontmesswithourchocolate.com site to spread the word.
Please download the images to your computer and place them on your own server. Hotlinking to my site will not work.
You’re welcome to link to them from this Photobucket Gallery.
I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but the FDA controls what fits under the definition of chocolate for sale in the United States. They want to make MOCKOLATE into CHOCOLATE.
As it is, chocolate is not an unhealthy treat. Cocoa Butter, which is composed of stearic acid, has been found to have no effect on blood lipid levels (cholesterol). Cocoa solids have been shown to have a positive effect on our bodies because of the high levels of antioxidants, insulin-like and anti-inflammatory compounds.
The new rules would completely obliterate the current definition, basically making any concoction containing cocoa solids and a fat into Chocolate. Like magic!
The rules currently state (basically) that chocolate must contain cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Other things can be in there, like milk fat and milk solids to make milk chocolate and a small amount of milk fat can be added to dark chocolate as well. The new proposal would allow products that contain NO COCOA BUTTER to be called chocolate.
We all know that these mockolate products are crappy. They don’t taste the same ... they feel oily or greasy on the tongue and don’t have the smooth buttery melt. What’s worse? They usually contain partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) or tropical oils (saturated fats) ... these fats raise our cholesterol levels.
Why is the Chocolate Manufacturers Association pushing for this? Because it’s more cost efficient.
There’s no reason that consumers want this dilution of the standards for chocolate!
It’s all for the chocolate companies to be able to make a cheaper product, an inferior product. Think about it, have you ever picked up a mockolate product and thought, “Goodness, that’s better than real chocolate!” Have you? I thought not. There will be a few holdouts that will continue with the tried and true traditional formulations of chocolate and they’re going to be the losers. Sure, the high end companies will do okay, because they’ve always had consumers with deeper pocketbooks. But the big chocolate companies that want to make this cheap mockolate will flood the market and confuse consumers ... ultimately just frustrating us with bad experiences and wasted money (and possibly a fatter belly and clogged arteries).
You know what? The FDA doesn’t have to give the CMA what they want. You have the power to reject this ... but you have to tell the FDA!
It’s never been easier ... just visit the FDA’s public comment portion of their website and tell them that you don’t want to lose real chocolate in a sea of wax and tropical oils. You can fill out the form, or send them a letter or a fax. Here’s what you’re commenting on:
Just visit this page for a tutorial and some talking points ... or read through the issues and draft your own letter. The important thing to do is to tell them that this change does NOT PROTECT CONSUMERS. The use of alternate fats not only makes for crappy chocolate, it’s not good for us.
The deadline for public comment on this is
April 25th, 2007
June 25, 2007.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.