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Chocolate companies receive global guidance on testing fat composition.

IT sounds like every child's dream job--chocolate testing: something out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. But it is of course a deadly serious business--not just to ensure chocolate tastes good and is healthy--but also to comply with laws on chocolate composition.

This is of course a keenly fought over issue, especially in the European Union (EU) where chocolatiers and their political representatives debated permissible ingredients for years. The result was the EU's chocolate directive' (Directive 2000/36/EC), which--famously--allows the addition of up to 5% of vegetable fats other than cocoa butter in chocolate and chocolate products--anymore and the confectionery cannot be sold as chocolate in the EU.

So, it is very important that chocolate companies--especially those in Britain and Ireland, where vegetable fat is commonly used--make sure they do not breach the 5% limit.

Amanda Waller, spokeswoman for the UK's department for environment, food and rural affairs noted said that while the chocolate directive lays down rules on the composition and labelling of chocolate and similar products and sets minimum levels for certain constituents such as cocoa solids, milk solids and vegetable fats in chocolate, "it does not however, stipulate the methods which should be used to determine these values."

And that is an important when it comes to enforcement. A range of testing methods are available, and the European Commission is happy for them to be used, favouring a flexible approach accommodating technical advances and allowing any method which enables companies to reliably demonstrate compliance with the directive.

In this task, the industry has been assisted by the EU's Joint Research Centre's (JRC) Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM), which has released helpful testing methods, databases and reference materials. These include a standardised database with compositional information on cocoa butters, cocoa butter equivalents and more than 4,000 mixtures; an electronic evaluation sheet; certified cocoa butter reference materials to allow calibration of testing machines; and others--see Pages/index.aspx

But since last year, a globally approved comprehensive testing method has been available--the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has been promoting its standard ISO 11053:2009 on the determination of cocoa butter equivalents in milk chocolate.

The standard was developed very much with the enforcement of the chocolate directive in mind and built on the detailed work carried out by the JRC.

The centre's spokesman Mark English welcomed the development, saying the ISO standard adoption means a testing tool is now recognised at international level and can help manufacturers ensure their brands are less susceptible to fraudulent practices.

"[Proper chocolate labelling] is of course essential both for safety and consumer protection reasons--as well as to ensure a level playing field across the EU single market--for consumers to be sure that the ingredients and quality of chocolate (as indeed any of other food product) are what manufacturers say they are," said English.

Moving forward, the ISO standard should make life easier for international confectionery companies faced with a welter of testing standards and methods. Many of these are national in scope. The USA's AOAC International and several national food authorities, such as those in Germany and Switzerland, have laid down detailed quality related criteria for chocolate regarding the content of cocoa solids, milk solids and milk fat.

Speaking to Confectionery Production, the major chocolate manufacturers claimed they had a handle on the situation.

Raphael Wermuth, spokesman for Switzerland's Barry Callebaut said that it had not changed its testing as a result of the ISO standard. Hilary Green, research and development spokesperson for Nestle said too, that while Nestle has always conformed with the chocolate directive, the adoption of the ISO standard had not changed its chocolate manufacturing processes and testing.

Which is all and good--but prior to the development of the JRC's measurement techniques after the directive was passed, there simply was no validated methodology in existence to check whether manufacturers were correctly reporting the amount of vegetable fats other than cocoa butter in milk chocolate. Because the chemical composition and physical properties of these fats and butter are very close, it makes them very difficult to quantify or detect, but the JRC noted that by performing a single triacylglycerol analysis using gas liquid chromatography, several useful pieces of information can be determined: the milk fat content of the chocolate sample; the contribution of triacylglycerols originating from milk fat; the presence or absence of cocoa butter equivalents; and the amount of vegetable fat present in milk chocolate.

This has given regulators some powerful tools. Also Waller noted that the chocolate standards developed by global food standards body Codex Alimentarius contains some recommended methods for analysis and sampling of chocolate (both the AOAC or IOCCC--International Office of Cocoa, Chocolate and Sugar Confectionery--methods). Also, the UK's Food Safety Agency has also funded research into methods for determining vegetables fats in chocolate. For example, in 2006, Britain's Central Science Laboratory developed a new method to detect the presence of hydrogenated fats in chocolate by measuring hydrogenated steroidal hydrocarbons in the fat fraction. Many companies have developed their own chocolate tests, too, such as Switzerland-based pharmaceutical company Metrohm who recently developed a test to determine the exact sugar content of chocolate--helping manufacturers ensure consistency on the production line.

Waller added too, that in the UK, the enforcement of food legislation is the responsibility of individual local authorities. "Public analyst laboratories would carry out the analysis of foods on behalf of the enforcement bodies to ensure manufacturers are complying with the requirements of the regulations," she said.

Penelope Alexandre, regulatory and scientific affairs director at CAOBISCO (Association of the Chocolate, Biscuit & Confectionery Industries of Europe) said that in all EU member states, regulators decide which method they want to use to test compliance, and companies must comply.

Of course in some countries that fought the chocolate directive's 5% rule and who prefer 100% cocoa butter chocolate, the ISO test will probably be ignored (although regulators may still find it useful to check for vegetable fat adulteration). Sevan Nalbandian, Scientific Officer at the Association of Swiss Chocolate Manufacturers said "as far as we know, none of the Swiss chocolate manufacturers use vegetable fats other than cocoa butter in milk chocolate." In France, it was not until August 2008 that French government published regulations complying with the chocolate directive, since French chocolate manufacturers have traditionally used only cocoa butter in chocolate.
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Author:Deschamps, M.J.
Publication:International News
Date:Dec 1, 2010
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