Under proposed European legislation - EU Regulation 1169/2011 on Food Information to Consumers (FIC) – ingredients that constitute over 50% of a food are set to be mandatorily labelled. The European Commission will discuss which products are to be included or exempt from the rule in a report due December 13 this year.
Milk chocolate contains roughly 30% cocoa (cocoa butter and cocoa liquor), but dark chocolate often accounts for over 50% of the final product.
What does FIC regulation say?
“The indication of the country of origin or of the place of provenance of a food should be provided whenever its absence is likely to mislead consumers as to the true country of origin or place of provenance of that product.” Applicable to: “Ingredients that constitute over 50% of a food.”
ECA said that cocoa and cocoa semi-finished products should be exempt from voluntary and mandatory origin labeling.
“As a tropical product, origin indication would give meaningless information to the consumer – who is well aware that cocoa is not grown and harvested in the EU,” it said in a statement. ECA's members which include Barry Callebaut, Cargill and ADM Cocoa, source their cocoa from around 29 countries (72 % from Africa, 16% from America, 12% from Asia & Oceania).
Segregated storage costly
The association said mandatory labeling would “severely” affect the cocoa supply and production as the industry would need to separate sourcing for specific origins and increase storage capacity.
“This in turn, would result in significant additional costs for the European cocoa industry and for the consumer.” The ECA said the cost would go up by a minumum of 30% andwould ultimately be borne by European consumers.
“Partitioning production according to origin, be it by converting continuous to batch production, multiplying processing lines per origin or even setting-up single origin production plants would all lead to substantial investment costs and increases in energy consumption.”
Cocoa is currently regulated under EU Directive 2000/36/EC. In Switzerland, cocoa is exempt from origin labeling.
Chocolate manufacturers often use blends of different cocoa origins to give a signature taste and they change sourcing practices depending on commodity prices and the quality of the cocoa.
ECA pointed to research by the UK's Food Standards Agency that found consumers privileged information on food safety, price, “best-before date” and taste, before origin, which came in at fifth place.
The European Commission is set to hold a meeting between stakeholders and member states in Brussels on December 9 ahead of reports on origin labeling changes due on December 13.