Milk chocolate wins a reprieve from Brussels

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The Independent Online
THERE is fresh news from the front in the Great Chocolate War - traditional British milk chocolate has been saved by the Brussels bureaucrats.

In the latest twist to a long-running saga, the European Commission has rejected attempts by chocolate purists on the Continent to force British people to buy only chocolate made from pure cocoa.

To the dismay of rival confectioners in Belgium and France, the Commission has overruled members of the European Parliament, who in a shock vote last October raised the prospect of a ban on British people buying Milk Tray or Cadbury's Dairy Milk. MEPs had deleted a key phrase from a proposed new EU chocolate law which stated: "The UK and Ireland may authorise the use in their territory of the name milk chocolate to designate the product". This would have forced Cadbury's to change the recipe if they wanted to go on describing their bars as milk chocolate, either on the home market or for export.

But the Commission has ignored this amendment in its latest version of the directive. Brussels has also thrown out an amendment insisting that there can be no new chocolate legislation until scientists devise a reliable method for monitoring the amount of vegetable fat in a bar of chocolate.

The chocolate war is as old as Britain's membership of the European Union and the new chocolate directive is the Commission's attempt to end it. In 1973 the UK and Ireland were granted exemptions from a ban on making chocolate from anything other than cocoa butter.

But while we were allowed to indulge the national craving for sweet milky bars made with up to 5 per cent vegetable fat, regarded as inferior on the Continent, the EU banned the export of British chocolate to the rest of Europe. The new directive would open up the trade for the first time in almost 25 years, although it looks as if we may have a single currency before we have a true European chocolate union.

Poor cocoa-producing countries such as Ivory Coast are deeply upset by the latest Commission ruling. "They are not taking into account the interests of producing countries, although this directive will lead to a reduction in consumption of cocoa," said Silas Kamga, secretary general of the Cocoa Producers Association. And MEPs will get another attempt to stymie the Commission's proposal when the legislation comes back for a second reading in a few weeks' time.