April 19, 2007
Chocolate Meltdown

As they have for many, many things, federal authorities have standards for what is meant by "chocolate." One of those standards now is being challenged by the Grocery Manufacturers of America. The trade group wants the requirement for cocoa butter and whole milk in various kinds of chocolate to be relaxed so cheaper ingredients - vegetable oils and milk protein concentrates - can be substituted. If the group's petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration succeeds, chocolate as we now know it could become something else.

The change, however, wouldn't be mandatory, as explained in this comprehensive look at the issue in the Los Angeles Times. Chocolate companies, if they wish, could continue to abide by existing standards.

Nevertheless, two historic California chocolate companies, Guittard and See's, are fighting the proposal. Guittard has created a Web site where it notes that if FDA officials agree to the change the 25 percent cocoa butter than now goes into fine chocolate (at a cost of $2.30 a pound) could be replaced entirely with vegetable fat (at a cost of 70 cents a pound).

The site also points out that consumers have until Wednesday to comment on the petition, and provides a link for remarks to the FDA.

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