The federal Food and Drug Administration is proposing to redefine the very essence of chocolate and to allow big manufacturers such as Hershey to sell a bar devoid of a key ingredient — cocoa butter. The butter's natural texture could be replaced with inferior alternatives, such as vegetable fats. And consumers would never know.
Chocolatier Gary Guittard said it best: "No one can afford to sit back and eat bonbons while America's great passion for chocolate is threatened."
For every defender of traditional chocolate, there are powerful proponents who want to replace cocoa butter with vegetable oil: the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Snack Food Association. These industry titans have filed a "citizens petition" to the FDA, as the Los Angeles Times recently reported, as if there were some groundswell in society to water down chocolate.
At the moment, chocolate requires two basic ingredients — cocoa and cocoa butter. Cocoa provides much of the flavor; cocoa butter, the texture. So if, say, Hershey wanted to make a chocolate bar without cocoa butter, it can under today's rules. The product has to be labeled "chocolate flavored" (for it still has the cocoa in it) rather than "chocolate." That gives the consumer a signal that something less than chocolate lies beneath the wrapping. To help defend chocolate, visit www.dontmesswithourchocolate.com and learn how to submit feedback to the FDA.
Well, of course it's a done deal, because we're in an era in which whatever Giant Company A asks the government to do, the government does.
But dammit, leave chocolate alone!