Due to an overwhelming outcry from the public, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has extended its public comment period for proposed changes to the ingredients in chocolate from April 25th to June 25th. If the change in the ingredients listing passes, the FDA will allow chocolate companies to begin substituting artificial fats and vegetable oils for the naturally existing natural cocoa butter found in chocolate, and they will still be able to label and call the final product "chocolate."
The 'why' is simple. The mega-chocolate companies want to reduce their costs with the cheaper vegetable oils and then be able to pass the final product off on the public as chocolate. The recipe for chocolate has virtually been the same for hundreds of years; changing it now is not for better taste or health benefits, it is to keep the manufacturing costs down.
Art Pollard, founder of Amano Artisan Chocolate, one of the few small artisanal U.S. chocolate manufacturers, continues the fight to keep chocolate natural. Pollard states, "When you take the cocoa butter out of chocolate, it's like taking the cream out of ice cream and still calling it ice cream. Removing the cocoa butter and replacing it with artificial fats and vegetable oils creates a monstrosity; I call it FrankenChocolate.
"As for the consumers, buyers beware," says Pollard. "FrankenChocolate will leave the consumer misled, confused and ultimately dissatisfied. It is very important that the public fight this. If they do not, the chocolate we grew up with will never be the same."
"Gary Guittard of Guittard Chocolate has taken a very public stand against these proposed changes in chocolate," states Amano Artisan Chocolate founder Art Pollard. "To the best of our knowledge, Guittard is the only large U.S. chocolate company to oppose these changes in a public way."
If the public doesn't reach out to the FDA and make their voices heard they can be assured that grandma's chocolate chip cookies will be full of artificial hydrogenated fats instead of the chocolate she intended.
Cause and Effect
As the giants of the chocolate industry create artificially low pricing, they are harming the industry over the long term. The replacement of cocoa butter with cheaper ingredients will depress the cocoa prices, forcing cocoa growers to look for other livelihoods. In fact, a number of growers are now cutting down trees to plant more profitable and less labor-intensive crops such as pineapple and passion fruit.
Cocoa farmers have long subsisted on the edge of poverty with the large chocolate makers paying only the bare minimum -- just enough to ensure the next year's harvest -- a practice Amano Artisan Chocolate decries. With the higher cocoa prices the labor situation on the Ivory Coast has been improving and diminishing the trafficking of children. By depressing the cocoa prices it we reverse all the gains made in protecting these children.
Reminder: The deadline for submitting public comments to the FDA is now June 25, 2007.
From the June 4, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash