This afternoon I learned that large corporations including the Chocolate Manufacturers Association (CMA) are petitioning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA http://www.fda.gov/) to change laws for the benefit of the manufacturers. Specifically, the CMA is backing a petition that will allow candies with no real chocolate in them to be called "chocolate."
The current FDA standard for chocolate says it must contain cocoa butter, and this proposal would make it possible to call something chocolate even if it has vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter. Many candy bars do not or will not have cocoa butter in them if this law is passed.
This pushed all of my buttons. Why? For the same reason that during the vanilla crisis the big manufacturers stopped using pure vanilla in their premium ice creams and said they contained "other natural flavors." This was blatantly against the FDA laws for vanilla in dairy, but the FDA did nothing. Not only are products being misrepresented to the public, they are also undercutting the farmers.
Guittard Chocolate, a family business that produces high quality chocolate used by many confectioners including Sees Candies, has created a web site for people to voice their opinions on this potential law. We have until June 25th to express our opinions. Go to: http//DontMessWithOurChocolate.com. There is a link that will take you directly to the FDA site where we can type in our comments. This is what I posted. Please note that I was careful not to name company names this time as I have gotten myself into trouble in the past for doing that.
As the owner of The Vanilla.COMpany and voice for vanilla farmers worldwide, I have been very concerned by the disinterest on the part of the FDA with regard to standards established by the FDA for vanilla, especially during the vanilla crisis of 1999 - 2005. In this case, manufacturers -- especially large frozen dessert corporations -- blatantly ignored FDA rules and used 'other natural flavors' instead of pure vanilla in premium ice creams. The FDA looked the other way and didn't enforce their own laws.
Now, the FDA is considering changing the standards for chocolate so that a candy product can be called 'chocolate' even though it doesn't contain cocoa butter. Not only is this a misrepresentation of the product and confusing to the consumer, it also lowers the bar on what is and isn't truly chocolate.
Vanilla and chocolate have a lot in common. They grow in the same tropical regions and are luxury crops that we all love and would dearly miss if they weren't available.
What few take into account, however, is that as we manufacture chocolate and vanilla products without pure chocolate and pure vanilla in them, we are undercutting the livelihoods of very poor farmers. By substituting imitation or diluting quality, demand for the pure, natural product drops and farmers become destitute. Where do the farmers go? To industrialized countries as migrant labor, usually without marketable skills and often without the language.
We in the industrialized countries then complain about the migrants coming into our countries and using up our social service resources. Is it worth the money saved by manufacturers to use synthetics or to slide around the truth by claiming their products contain something they don't, when we consider that in the countries where these commodities are grown there are children going without education, medical attention and often even food because their families can't earn enough to support them? Is this the legacy we wish to inflict upon the world, that to satisfy the wealthy corporations we will sacrifice the most basic standards of living of others?
I strongly suggest that the standards for chocolate NOT be lowered. And I strongly suggest that the FDA revisits their earlier standards for vanilla and enforce those rules again.
Please take a moment and go to http//DontMessWithOurChocolate.com and register your thoughts on this underhanded move by big business to lower the standards of chocolate. By doing this you will be indirectly supporting those who grow our chocolate.