Saturday, April 14, 2007

Big Media Discovers the Proposed FDA Chocolate Changes

I’ve been madly typing away on an editorial for the LA Times for the past week. Honing it, submitting it, editing it.

And I’m feeling pretty good. I’m taking a stand, getting the word out. Because I was feeling like this topic was neglected in the mass media.

So I ran into my neighbor this morning, who happens to work at the LA Times (no, she’s not the one who spits things out) and she said, “Did you see the LATimes this morning?”

See's Scotchmallow EggsI said I saw it, but I didn’t read it (because it was in an opaque wrapper that was an ad for Sprint and I couldn’t see the headlines). I had stuff to do and got up early and headed out.

She said I should read it because there is an article on the front page about the cocoa butter substitution proposal.

  • The courage of their confections by Jerry Hirsch
  • (Sigh. So my editorial is a no-go at the moment. Maybe some retooling.)

    Here are some highlights of the article with my commentary:

    A pound of chocolate contains more than 4 ounces of cocoa butter, at a cost of about $2.30, said Guittard Chocolate, based in Burlingame, Calif. The same amount of vegetable oil was 70 cents.

    Think about that for a moment. So a quarter of what we’re eating when we consume chocolate is actually cocoa butter. And replacing that huge proportion with an ingredient that doesn’t make it taste better also isn’t going to improve the nutritional profile of chocolate. It’s going to make it worse. Sure, chocolate is high in fat (hello? it’s 25% fat) but it has been found to be neutral when it comes to our cholesterol profile (that’s just plain cocoa butter, chocolate itself as a combination of both cocoa solids high in antioxidants and the neutral butter lowers bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterol). The fats they want to put in place of cocoa butter are nasty. They contain higher levels of saturated fats and can even contain trans fatty acids.

    By adopting the proposal, the FDA would be providing “flexibility to make changes based on consumer taste preferences, ingredient costs and availability and shelf life,” said Kirk Saville, spokesman for the Hershey, Pa.-based company.

    Saville said it could be years before the FDA issued a decision.

    That flexibility already exists. Hershey is free to make products without cocoa butter in them right now. In fact, they do. They put a vegetable oil based coating on the current version of the 5th Avenue Bar. I’ve had it. And as a consumer with taste, I prefer the old version. I resent the fact that if this proposal goes through they can take the current mockolate formulation and put a big banner across the front of the package that says “Now with Real Chocolate” without changing a thing in the actual ingredients. Tell me they’re doing it becuaseof my preference and I will laugh in your face.

    Oh, and it could be years? Yes, but the open comment period for the public to respond is now, so that sort of mollifying comment is like saying, “don’t worry your pretty little head about it. We’ll do what’s right for you. Look at how much we have your interests at heart, because we’ve already publicly stated that customers may actually prefer a version of chocolate that don’t have cocoa butter in it.”

    Gary Guittard believes that in proposing to change the rules, the food industry is overthinking what he believes should be one of the simple joys of life.

    “Why add ingredients to something that is just fine the way it is?” he asked.

    Honestly, this sums it up so well. Industry is overthinking this. It’s a simple thing that we want, we just want chocolate. Keep it real, guys. Don’t mess with out chocolate.

    Note: Jerry Hirsch’s article also appeared in the Seattle Times.

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:31 am Tracker Pixel for Entry     CandyCandy Blog InfoChocolateNews

    1. Speaking as someone from the UK, where our “chocolate” doesnt have to contain any cocoa butter at all, and in fact rarely does, I pray that your FDA does the sensible thing and refuses to allow this miscarriage of cuisine. The only people that will benefit from such a move will be the unscrupulous producers who see an opportunity to cut their costs whilst hoodwinking the consumers into believing they are eating chocolate - not “mockolate”. I love the taste of real chocolate and mostly buy the more expensive bars, but I cherish them for I have no need to eat a whole bar of Cluizel single estate chocolate in one sitting. There is more flavour in one small piece of that Cluizel chocolate than a whole (500g) bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (made with vegetable fats instead of cocoa butter).

      Comment by Garry Clark on 4/14/07 at 2:08 pm #
    2. I don’t think you should give up your editorial. I think instead you should re-formulate it as a letter to the LA Times “In response” to this article. smile That way you can still have your excellent voice heard and published.

      Comment by Sera on 4/14/07 at 5:46 pm #
    3. I’m glad you submitted it. Maybe it will still help to get the word out about this “cause.”

      Comment by Russ on 4/15/07 at 9:16 am #
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