Euro-MPs vote to ease EU chocolate rules
Agence France Presse English Wire, 10/23/97


The European parliament voted Thursday to allow chocolate-makers to include less cocoa butter and more vegetable fat in their products and still call it chocolate. European legislators voted to allow cocoa butter to be replaced by vegetable fats up to a limit of five percent of weight -- although the ruling should not be applied until reliable methods of monitoring are in place.

Under the text, products currently sold under the name "chocolate" in seven EU countries -- Austria, Finland, Sweden, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland -- will be able to be sold as such in the rest of the European Union. The 15-member Union is split over the issue, with Belgium and France in particular spearheading a campaign for "real" chocolate to be made solely using cocoa butter.

The deputies rejected a radical proposed amendment demanding that products containing vegetable fats be banned from sale within the European Union, by 231 votes to 191. The ruling could have important consequences for cocoa-producing countries, notably in Africa, who supply large-scale manufacturers who in turn supply the huge European market for chocolate candy.

Chocolate products containing vegetable fats should be labelled with the details of their ingredients, according to the draft text agreed by the Euro-MPs. Individual countries will nevertheless be able to continue to impose their own standards for their own producers. Thursday's vote, on a draft EU directive, was passed by 246 to 158 at its first reading in the Strasbourg-based EU assembly, with 130 deputies abstaining. Under EU rules, the draft text will be submitted to the Council of Ministers before returning to the Euro-Parliament for a second reading.

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