The use of the word 'pure' by Italian manufacturers to label wholly cocoa butter-derived chocolate products has not left a sweet taste with the European Commission, which is now taking the issue to court.
Italian manufacturers have been locked in conversation with the Commission over use of the term, which is not allowed under EU law due to claims that it can distort competition between rival confectioners.
The EC says that it filed papers at a European court last Thursday calling for Italian legislation on defining chocolate to come in line with Commission directive 2000/36/EC to avoid concerns over product discrimination.
Under the directive, up to five per cent of vegetable fats used in chocolate products can be obtained from sources other than cocoa butter and should be allowed in all member states as long as the ingredients are indicated on the packaging.
The rule states that the notice has to be put alongside the list of ingredients, clearly separated from that list, in lettering at least as large, in bold, and near the brand name.
However, the Commision claims that the Italina designation of "cioccolato puro", which it says appears on some chocolate, falls foul of EU antitrust laws by insinuating that other products containing cocoa butter equivalents are inferior.
No date has yet been set for the hearing, the Commision said.
A Commission spokesperson told ConfectioneryNews.com that negotiations with Italian authorities over the issue had been ongoing since March 2004.
However, the spokesperson added that negotiations had subsequently broken down leading the EC to pursue the issue through the courts.
The Italians have remained resolute over their use of terminology for chocolate packaging, reflecting a struggle between members states such as the UK to allow the use of cocoa butter alternatives.
In implementing the new Directive of 2000/36, the production and marketing of Italian cocoa and chocolate products is now governed by a 2003 regulation which controls the use of the expression 'pure chocolate', limiting any mention of 'pure' only to chocolate products 'which do not contain vegetable fats other than cocoa butter'.