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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Chocolate: What's in a name?

From the "what does the FDA do again?" category comes news of the FDA considering changing the definition of chocolate. Unbeknownst to me - but perhaps knownst to you - chocolate is defined by a combination of very specific ingredients. Many pseudo chocolates ("chocolate" bunnies at Easter, apparently) don't make the grade.

The FDA is entertaining a "citizen's petition" to allow these not-quite-chocolates to be labeled as "chocolate," instead of "chocolatey" or "chocolate-flavored." On the other side, some purists are telling the FDA to get its "Hands off my chocolate!" Here's a few excerpts from the opponent's LA Times opinion piece, starting with the definition of real chocolate:
It's all basically made the same way: cacao pods are fermented and then roasted and ground into a fine paste that can be separated into two components: cacao solids (commonly called cocoa powder) and cocoa butter. Each chocolatier uses different proportions but generally blends sugar, cocoa solids and cocoa butter plus the optional ingredients — emulsifiers, flavors (typically vanilla) and milk solids (to make milk chocolate) — and molds that into a chocolate bar.
So what will change?
The FDA is entertaining a "citizen's petition" to allow manufacturers to substitute vegetable fats and oils for cocoa butter [most likely because vegetable oil costs one-third the cocoa butter price]...
...It may be cocoa powder that gives chocolate its taste, but it is the cocoa butter that gives it that inimitable texture. It is one of the rare, naturally occurring vegetable fats that is solid at room temperature and melts as it hits body temperature — that is to say, it melts in your mouth. Cocoa butter also protects the antioxidant properties of the cocoa solids and gives well-made chocolate its excellent shelf life. (emphasis mine)
The Chocolate Defender sums up the reason for preserving the pure definition:
I'd say we've already demonstrated our preference for true chocolate. That's why real chocolate outsells fake chocolate. Nine of the 10 bestselling U.S. chocolate candies are made with the real stuff. M&Ms, Hershey Bars, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups — all real chocolate. Butterfinger is the outlier. (emphasis mine)
Here's my question. Did people knowingly select these items because they are made with real chocolate, or did they simply prefer the taste/texture experience? In other words, who shops for chocolate by looking for real "chocolate"?

You can get full coverage of the unwrapping* chocolate saga via the Candy Blog.

*Sorry, I love puns.

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