He reminded readers that “real chocolate” is made from crushed cacao beans that provide both the solid cocoa component and also cocoa butter “that is vital to texture because, quite literally, it melts in your mouth.” He calls companies like Hershey’s and Mars “industrial confectioners” and so they are. These powerful candy interests are behind the FDA’s current decision, whether to permit the use of cheaper vegetable fats for cocoa butter but still label the resulting product as “chocolate.”
Rosenblum wrote, “Advocates of substitution claim Europeans already do this. That comparison, whether a misunderstanding or an effort to mislead, is absurd. When European companies tried to cut cocoa butter, the debate dragged on for a decade. In 2003, the European Union ruled that substitution had to be limited to 5 percent and only by a few specific oils that chemically resemble cocoa butter. This faux chocolate is clearly labeled “contains vegetable fats in addition to cocoa butter” — and is shunned by purists. The French like to call it ‘cocholat,’ an epithet derived from their word for pig, cochon.”
He noted that the FDA “can act swiftly to change rules based on what it calls a citizen’s petition. During the comment period, which ends today, ‘citizens” like the Grocery Manufacturers Association added new guidelines for chocolate onto an omnibus petition covering more than 200 foods that “called for, among other things, altering food standards to ‘permit maximum flexibility in the food technology used to prepare the standardized food’ and to allow ‘any alternative process that accomplishes the desired effect.’”
If the FDA capitulates to corporate interests and adds chocolate to the list of engineered Franken-food, the effects on food manufacturing in general and chocolate making in particular could be cosmic, because the proposed “guidelines provide for no effective limit on how much cocoa butter can be substituted nor restrictions on what fats can be used. There is no attempt to mimic the real thing,” he wrote. California chocolatier Gary Guittard is credited with sounding the alarm and rallying opposing forces; the F.D.A. extended its comment period to today.
Rosenblum added, “As word of the chocolate petition spread in Europe, Old World masters reacted predictably. They had watched Americans finally catch on to the wonders of cacao, and are appalled at the idea that this could all be lost. As Jacques Genin, whose unmarked one-room Paris factory is a holy site for connoisseurs, said, everyone has a right to the joy of chocolate — and if most chocolate on the shelves is fake, only those who can afford creations like Mr. Genin’s will know how wonderful it is.”
Rosenblum noted, “The proposal would widen the gap between good and awful. Industrial food companies could sell their waxy cocholat for less. But purveyors of the real thing have no corners to cut. While discerning chocoholics will fork over whatever it takes, those who can’t pay will never know chocolate.
“Proponents cloud the issue with dubious claims. Some say, for instance, the change would help growers and African children who toil for a pittance in cacao fields, without explaining exactly how. But in fact, it would lower the demand for beans.
“When Americans learned to love olive oil, growers improved quality. In the same way, a chocolate revolution put a premium on better beans. But 90 percent of cacao farmers barely scratch by. They would suffer from lower demand, and so would their product.”