Monday, April 16, 2007

Keeping Chocolate Real and Fair

Changes to the FDA's definition of chocolate will hurt cocoa growers.
Image source: Co-op Fair Trade.

As a large -- and timid -- chocolate bunny stares at me from its bed of Easter grass, waiting for the moment in which I bite its delicious little ears off, I'm thinking about a proposal put forth to the FDA.

That chocolate bunny -- tall, dark, and handsome; sweet, smooth, and decadent -- might next year have an inferior replacement. The Chocolate Manufacturers of America (CMA) in collaboration with the Grocery Manufacturers Association have petitioned the FDA to change the definition of chocolate, so that products made with milk substitutes and vegetable oil (instead of milk and cocoa butter) can be sold under the label of "chocolate." Why? So the manufacturers can save money by selling cheap crap. (Check out the specific proposed changes.)


Is nothing sacred?

If this petition is enacted, the result of is two fold: A) poorly made "mocklate" confections (example) will be reclassified and legitimized by the FDA and, more importantly, B) chocolatiers can avoid paying fair wages to workers in countries where cocoa is grown. From a Guittard Chocolate Company press release:

Changing the current “Gold Standard” for chocolate by allowing the substitution of hydrogenated or chemically-modified vegetable fats for cocoa butter will also have a dramatic impact on cocoa growers in Central and South America, the Caribbean Basin, Africa, and nations in Southeast Asia at a time when the global chocolate industry is working to improve working and economic conditions of these developing countries’ farmers. In fact, the plan to substitute these types of vegetable fats for cocoa butter would cause a disastrous economic impact on their livelihoods as the demand for cocoa butter would likely decrease and prices would plummet as some manufacturers switch to the cheaper substitutes. [Emphasis mine]
The result of this is that big manufacturers can start producing your favorite candies with "mocklate" short changing cocoa growers out of well deserved income. (Hershey chocolate is already on board with this and supports the Grocery Manufacturers Association efforts.*)

But this movement can be stopped. All you have to do is send a comment to the FDA telling them not to mess with chocolate by the April 25, 2007 deadline. To make it even easier, guides you through the process, even providing you with a letter you can cut-and-paste into the FDA's comment box (but you should feel free to write your own letter).

Really: it only takes a moment and it's as simple as pie -- a delicious slice of chocolate cream pie, made with genuine chocolate.

Read more about this issue here and here.
* Source.

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