Detailed guidance notes to accompany the new EU-wide cocoa and chocolate product regulations, which came into force on 3 August 2003, have been published by the UK's Food Standards Agency.
The guidance notes describe the main requirements of the new regulations and set out the major differences between the new regulations and those in operation since 1976. They also provide practical examples and cocoa and milk content calculations for typical chocolate products that might be covered by the regulations.
This is the first time such notes have been issued and the FSA says it hopes they will succeed in providing practical advice for businesses and enforcement bodies with the aim of achieving a more consistent application and enforcement of the regulations.
The new regulations implement EC Directive 2000/36, which relates to cocoa and chocolate products and was adopted throughout Europe and published in June 2000.
Members States then had 36 months to bring the new rules into force on 3 August 2003. However, whilst the regulations came into force separately in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the Welsh regulations will follow in the autumn, according to the FSA.
The new harmonised rules reserve sales names to cocoa and chocolate products that meet prescribed compositional standards. They also require the products to be labelled with those names and with specified declarations.
According to the Agency, successful negotiations mean that the regulations do not represent a significant change from current rules. Despite somewhat scathing remarks from other European countries, the UK thus secured the right to continue to make milk chocolate to its own traditional recipe, which contains less cocoa and has a higher milk content and is the taste often preferred by UK consumers.
In a statement in 2002 Mark Woolfe, in the FSA's Food Labelling and Standards Division revealed that: "An early suggestion from other EU member states was to call our chocolate 'vegelate', which was totally unsatisfactory".
However, when sold elsewhere in the EU such milk chocolate will nevertheless have to be labelled as 'family milk chocolate' in order to help distinguish it from milk chocolate made in the rest of Europe.
The new rules also continue to permit the addition of up to 5 per cent vegetable fats other than cocoa butter in chocolate, but such addition will need to be indicated by a separate declaration: 'Contains vegetable fats in addition to cocoa butter'.