A controversy has been brewing among America’s chocolate lovers. At hand is a recent “citizen proposal” to the Food & Drug Administration that would allow products containing vegetable oil and hydrogenated oils to be called “chocolate.” Currently, the only products that are allowed to call themselves chocolate are those which contain cocoa butter as their primary fat. Despite its name, the citizen’s proposal was actually sponsored by a variety of trade organizations, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Chocolate Manufacturers Association. The proposal has many foodies, who contend that the proposal will result in a veritable flood of waxy, greasy chocolate into the market, hopping mad.
There are two sides to this issue. On the one hand, even die-hard opponents of the proposal admit that this wouldn’t affect the flavor of chocolate for those who care about it most. High-end chocolatiers will continue to make high-quality chocolate with cocoa butter and those who love chocolate will continue to buy it. Similarly, it’s likely that those just seeking a quick junk food fix aren’t differentiating between the “real” chocolate of a Hershey’s Bar and the “mockolate” of a bar like Payday Chocolatey Avalanche. Both groups will probably continue to buy the same kind of chocolate (be it real or fake) they’ve always bought.
On the other hand, standards for food are vitally important. Plenty of countries have stringent rules about what can legally be designated as a particular food. France and Italy, for example, have plenty of rules about what can be called Champagne or prosciutto. The United States has not been nearly as proactive in establishing standards for food designation, which doesn’t do much to validate the rich food heritage of our country and it’s troubling to think that the government is willing to devalue the standards we do have. Furthermore, it’s more than a little off-putting that this alleged “citizen’s proposal” came from the corporate world. Finally, the proposal is being marketed as a way to provide consumers with “healthy chocolate” since the new chocolate would be lower-fat than traditional chocolate. Low-fat, however, is not necessarily synonymous with healthy. Hydrogenated oils are actually not that hot for you.
The FDA had planned to end the public comment period this past Wednesday, but they’ve extended it to June 25. Head over to Don’t Mess With Our Chocolate to find out how you can send your comment. Go ahead. Stick it to Big Chocolate.
Don’t Mess With Our Chocolate [Guittard Chocolate Company]
An Argument Against “Healthy” Chocolate [NPR]
Chocolate Purists Alarmed By Proposal To Fudge Standards [Washington Post]
Hands Off My Chocolate, FDA! [L.A. Times]
The Courage Of Their Confections [L.A. Times]