Row over chocolate composition escalates

By Catherine Boal

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chocolate

Disgruntled US chocolate manufacturer Guittard is mounting a
defence of chocolate ahead of possible changes to the product's
composition by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Following a petition from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) in collaboration with the Chocolate Manufacturers Association (CMA) and other industry bodies, the FDA is considering changing the requirements for chocolate in the US. Industry leaders are calling for more flexibility in the current regulations to reflect changing consumer attitudes and advances in manufacturing technology and ingredient supplies. Amendments to the current standard of identity could lead to chocolate containing vegetable oils instead of cocoa butter and milk substitutes in place of milk hitting the market and providing a greater array of alternatives to standard tastes and textures. The FDA docket, which deals with other foods in addition to chocolate, is currently at the public consultation stage whereby interested parties are free to comment on the proposed amendments until April 25. Guittard, a premium chocolate producer, is now urging consumers to challenge the proposal. The company set up a website entitled 'don't mess with our chocolate'​ in order to gather support from those who don't want to see a change in the law. Company president Gary Guittard said in a statement released yesterday: "While all companies in the industry may have financial and economic concerns about the cost of doing business, the chocolate industry prides itself on delivering to the consumer high quality products. "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."​In addition, there are fears that, by allowing vegetable fats to take the place of cocoa butter in chocolate, a valuable source of income for producers in cocoa-growing areas such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast will be cut off. As cheaper alternatives to the basic chocolate ingredients become widely available, the supply network would be substantially altered to the detriment of those at the lower end of the chain.

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