Country of origin labeling for cocoa ‘meaningless’ and would up costs for consumers, says ECA

By Oliver Nieburg contact

- Last updated on GMT

Mooted EU legislation would require chocolates containing over 50% cocoa to specify the origin of the cocoa
Mooted EU legislation would require chocolates containing over 50% cocoa to specify the origin of the cocoa

Related tags: European union, Adm cocoa

The European Cocoa Association (ECA) says mandatory origin labeling of cocoa products is pointless and could even lead to a 30% price hike in consumer chocolate prices.  

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.”

How a milk chocolate (50 cocoa) label would look like under proposed FIC regulation
How a milk chocolate (containing over 50% cocoa) label would look like under proposed FIC regulation. Source: ECA

Blending beans

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.

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So let's stop labeling wine

Posted by Gillian,

So when I drink wine in the Caribbean I want to stop European wine having labels stating its country of origin. To adjust the quote from the article 'As a temperate product, origin information would be meaningless for the consumer who is well aware that grapes are not grown and harvested in the Caribbean.'

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Your math is fine Marcia

Posted by Antoinette,

It's quite misleading, that graphic they created ...mostly to sway the argument in favor of not labeling.

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I am having trouble with my math

Posted by Marcia Mogelonsky,

If the regulation says that only ingredients that comprise over 50% of a food have to have COOL labeling, why would the mock up label suggest that sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa mass and hazelnuts all require country of origin? They can't each be more than 50% of the food... it just doesn't add up. My math suggests that only one of those could be more than 50%... what am I not understanding?

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