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EU Agrees on Chocolate Definition Upsetting Major Cocoa Producers.

The European Union moved closer to a long-awaited deal on allowing vegetable fats in chocolate after the European Commission (EC) dropped objections to the law. The new plan should go ahead sometime next month, according to sources. This came just a week after the executive blocked an agreement brokered by member states (see F&DW 6/28).

The deal, which must still go back to the European Parliament for further scrutiny, would allow chocolate products to contain 5 percent vegetable fat other than cocoa butter as long as they were clearly labeled. Chocolate manufacturers said the draft agreement was far from perfect, but that it was better than no agreement.

Most EU governments last week rallied around a compromise to the 25-year-old dispute, which has inflamed passions in both chocolate-making countries such as Belgium and cocoa-producing states in Africa. But the deal was blocked because the EC objected to provisions (sponsored by France) that took away its power to make changes to the legislation once it was on the statute books.

The compromise will allow six specific tropical fats to be used instead of cocoa butter for up to 5 percent of the weight of the product: illipe, palm oil, sal, shea, kokum gurgi and mango kernel. Coconut oil could be used only in chocolate used to make ice cream and similar frozen products. It will allow Britain and Ireland to market milk chocolate under the name "family milk chocolate" to distinguish it from the continental version, which has lower milk content.

Cocoa producers, especially Ghana and the Ivory Coast, fear the plan will cut demand for cocoa, which is more expensive than the alternative vegetable oils, by as much as 200,000 tonnes per year and cause prices to plunge. World cocoa production for 1997-98 was 2.68 million tonnes.

Countries that already allow vegetable fats said throughout the debate that labels should not discriminate against their products by suggesting their chocolate was a lower quality. Cocoa processors said they were dissatisfied with the content of the deal, but welcomed some clarity on chocolate ingredients.
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Comment:EU Agrees on Chocolate Definition Upsetting Major Cocoa Producers.
Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Geographic Code:4EU
Date:Jul 5, 1999
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