All because the lady loves vegetable fat...

Click to follow
Britain's chocolate is under threat from rival confectioners on the Continent who argue that our product is not pure enough to merit the name. As the British scored an important victory this week, Amanda Kelly tries to discover what makes a 'real' bar of chocolate.

The last thing on the minds of most chocoholics as they bite into their favourite brand is the exact percentage and make-up of the ingredients. But it seems unlikely they would be so keen on "vegelate".

At the heart of the debate revolving around a proposed "Chocolate Directive" lies the question of when a bar of chocolate stops being a bar of chocolate and becomes something else.

While Britain and six other European Union countries permit up to 5 per cent vegetable fat, the rest of the EU requires chocolate to be made with cocoa butter. Purists argue that the use of vegetable fat means the product is not really chocolate and they say the lower content of cocoa in British chocolate makes it inferior. The makers of British chocolate say these arguments are "ridiculous".

Cadbury's spokesman Tony Bilsborough said: "Simply putting more cocoa into chocolate doesn't make it any more chocolatey. It just makes it different. And the reason why we use vegetable fat is to give it a nice gloss and a nice snap when you break off your chunk of chocolate."

This week the European Parliament environment committee rejected calls from Euro MPs to make British confectioners change the name of their product. They also rejected demands that British chocolate be called "chocolate with vegetable fat". But, as they voted on European Commission proposals to streamline EU food laws in the interests of the single market, they recommended that bars such as Cadbury's Dairy Milk should be labelled "chocolate with a high milk content".

Paul Kirkwood, spokesman for Nestle Rowntree said: "We are very pleased to be able to continue calling it chocolate because that is what it is ... British chocolate is every bit as good as on the Continent."

The matter will be taken up again in a full session of the parliament, on 22 October, when ministers will try to resolve their divisions.

John Newman, director of the Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery Alliance, said: "We are hoping that the European parliament will reject the proposal that we should label all milk chocolate 'chocolate with a high milk chocolate'. One of the main problems with this that when the phrase is translated into French it means 'household chocolate'."


Fresh liquid full-cream milk.


Cocoa mass - the basis of all chocolate products, consisting of roasted cocoa beans that have been ground into liquid.

Cocoa butter - the fat from cocoa beans.

Vegetable fat - similar in nature to cocoa butter and coming from African shea, Indian sal and Malaysian palm.

Emulsifier - a liquid made from rape seed oil that helps to liquify the chocolate.

E442 - ammonium phosphatides which act as a stabilizer.

Flavourings - such as vanilla, are added to enhance the taste.