Accompanying a 35-page petition signed by a diverse set of culinary groups -- juice producers, meat canners and the chocolate lobby -- the appendix charts proposed changes to food standard definitions set by the Food and Drug Administration, including this one: "use a vegetable fat in place of another vegetable fat named in the standard (e.g., cacao fat)."They can't possibly mean it, can they? Yes. And, you know Shrub will have brigades in the field:
Chocolate lovers read that as a direct assault on their palates. That's because the current FDA standard for chocolate says it must contain cacao fat -- a.k.a. cocoa butter -- and this proposal would make it possible to call something chocolate even if it had vegetable oil instead of that defining ingredient. Whoppers malted milk balls, for instance, do not have cocoa butter.Gawd, where does the madness end? This could cause open insurrection.
Other proposals in the petition -- e.g., to market cartoon character-shaped pasta as macaroni -- have not caused as much heartburn. That's because chocolate isn't just food. It symbolizes passion, and for its lovers, it borders on religion. They buy chocolate based on cacao content -- some desire 70 percent, others will go higher. The most demanding examine labels to make sure it is from one region, not a blend, focusing on production methods much the same way that coffee lovers home in on where beans are grown. Even mass chocolate producers are trying to tap into this spirit. There's now a Limited Edition Dark Snickers bar.
The industry has also been touting chocolate's health benefits -- it contains flavonoids, which may benefit the heart and arteries; cocoa butter doesn't raise cholesterol levels; and chocolate doesn't contain trans fats. Mars has even launched a division called Mars Nutrition for Health & Well-Being, which markets chocolate products with explicit health claims.