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The War on Chocolate -- Amano Artisan Chocolate's Public Position Statement
The War on Chocolate
Amano Artisan Chocolate's Public Position Statement
May 14, 2007
Since the time of the Olmecs, battles have been fought for chocolate. Men and women have lived and died protecting their cocoa and the land upon which it is grown. However today, there is a secretive assault on chocolate that threatens to change chocolate forever. While diseases such as Witches Broom, Black Pod Rot and Monilia have long threatened the cocoa crop, it is not a disease that threatens the cocoa crop but a secret ingredient promoted by "industry trade groups" that threatens to rot chocolate itself.
The practice of adding ingredients to chocolate traces its way through history back to the Maya and very likely before. Ingredients such as (black) pepper, chili, annatto, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon have been added to enhance flavor. In no case, were these additives intended to "replace" chocolate.
Today, there is an ingredient that is a serious threat to the very essence of what chocolate is. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to start turning the chocolate that we know and love into an artificial monstrosity. How do they propose to do this? The current proposal is to allow companies to start substituting vegetable fats for the cocoa butter that is naturally part of the cocoa bean. It is the naturally occurring cocoa butter that gives chocolate its incredibly luxurious melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Is this being done to improve or enhance the flavor or texture of chocolate? No. Industry groups such as the Grocery Manufacturer's Association, M&M Mars, and the Snack Food Association are pushing this for purely economical reasons. They are doing this so that they may cut costs and even turn an extra dollar or two selling the cocoa butter that would have been in your chocolate to the cosmetics industry. Once they have created their artificial monstrosity, the manufacturers these groups represent want the FDA to allow them to call it chocolate in order to deceive the consumer.
One of the unfortunate aspects of the cocoa industry are past and present labor practices that would make most shudder. Cocoa farmers have long subsisted at the edge of poverty with the large chocolate makers only paying the bare minimum -- just enough to ensure the next year's harvest. Replacing cocoa butter with cheap vegetable fats will only exacerbate this problem.
The large chocolate manufacturers have long benefited from the instability of the cocoa growing regions. A vicious cycle of political upheaval and poverty keeps entire regions from developing and is artificially (and unfairly) depressing cocoa prices.
There are continuing reports of the trafficking of children for labor on the cocoa plantations on the Ivory Coast. While this has improved significantly over the past few years, it should not be overlooked that given higher cocoa prices workers can be hired at competitive wages and the forced child slave labor (and associated human trafficking) will not be as attractive as it now is.
As these areas industrialize and people begin to climb out of poverty, political stability will increase, wages increase -- as will cocoa prices. As cocoa prices rise, the temptation for large industrial chocolate manufacturers to adulterate their products with inexpensive artificial fats and other ingredients will also increase.
This is short sighted. The move to allow vegetable and other fats to be included in chocolate is simply an effort by the industrial chocolate giants to deceive the consumer and keep chocolate prices artificially low. While the cost savings may benefit the large manufacturerers over the short term, it will harm the industry over the long term since the depressed cocoa prices will force cocoa growers to look for other livelihoods. In fact, we can already see this process at work in many cocoa growing regions as farmers cut down their trees to make room for much more profitable and less labor-intensive crops such as pineapple and passion fruit. Furthermore, the price of real estate in some of these regions is already skyrocketing, tempting cocoa growers to sell their plantations for development into housing and other non-agricultural uses.
As one of America's only artisanal chocolate makers, Amano Artisan Chocolate is adamant that these proposed regulatory changes be defeated. If the industrial chocolate manufacturers want to make something that is akin to chocolate but not chocolate, they are free to do so. However, they should not be allowed to deceive the consumer by calling it "chocolate".
We urge all lovers of chocolate to come together to fight this onslaught. For further details please visit:
http://www.amanochocolate.com/frankenchocolate/ (This link is inactive)
Chocolate has survived throughout the ages because it was just that -- chocolate. While chocolate by any other name is still chocolate, calling an artificial monstrosity "chocolate" does not make it chocolate but it will deceive the consumer and gravely hurt the cocoa industry over the long term.
Founder, Amano Artisan Chocolate