Wednesday, April 11, 2007

More on the Messing with our Chocolate Mess

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:

“The Citizen’s Petition proposed to FDA by the Grocery Manufacturers Association has many good points as it pertains to other foods, but if adopted it would allow the current “Gold Standard” for chocolate to be changed in a way that will ultimately result in short-changing the consumer and changing what we know and love as traditional chocolate.  There are no clear consumer benefits associated with the proposed changes.”

But what I thought was especially interesting was this point that the release also brought up:

Changing the current “Gold Standard” for chocolate by allowing the substitution of hydrogenated or chemically-modified vegetable fats for cocoa butter will also have a dramatic impact on cocoa growers in Central and South America, the Caribbean Basin, Africa, and nations in Southeast Asia at a time when the global chocolate industry is working to improve working and economic conditions of these developing countries’ farmers.  In fact, the plan to substitute these types of vegetable fats for cocoa butter would cause a disastrous economic impact on their livelihoods as the demand for cocoa butter would likely decrease and prices would plummet as some manufacturers switch to the cheaper substitutes.

Go read the whole thing.

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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.)

Keep this page bookmarked for all of my updated coverage on the issue. Don’t forget to do your part (and then claim your raffle ticket in my drawing!).

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:29 am Tracker Pixel for Entry     CandyFDAChocolateNews

Comments
  1. hi there,

    Isn’t the citizen petition dated 10/25/06 the document upon which we’re commenting? 

    Also note that CMA was involved in the original petition for modernizing food standards, docket: 1995N-0294 and you can read the original proposed rule in the Federal Register, Vol 70, No. 97, pp29214- 29235.  I can’t link directly, but you can start here:
    http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/retrieve.html

    Comment by Cory on 4/11/07 at 6:21 pm #
  2. Hi,

      You quote Guittard as saying there’s no consumer benefit - true, but there’s no consumer harm, either. Marshmallows may be called modems, but it doesn’t make it so.

      And as far as I’m concerned, the less the government regulates food identity, the better. Why exactly do they get to decide that the magical point at which ice cream becomes “not” ice cream is above 100% overrun? Maybe I like light, fluffy frozen confections - and maybe I want to call it ice cream. My business, not my nanny’s, no?

    Comment by T. Piatek on 4/13/07 at 8:56 pm #
  3. This is an actualy very important development that does harm small chocolate producers by allowing just about anything to be called chocolate.  Of course, you may intuitivley know that a freaking marshmallow is not a modem, but of course it is illegal to label it that way for a very good and obvious common sense reasons.  Chocolate should be chocolate.  Asprin should be asprin. Cheese should be cheese. Olive Oil should be Olive Oil. You get the point.

    Comment by Brian C. on 4/17/07 at 7:02 pm #

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