The committee, chaired by Caroline JACKSON (EPP/ED, UK), called for a ban on the use of genetic or enzymatic engineering in cocoa and chocolate products in view of consumers' distrust of such methods. It also asked the Commission to consider how the interests of the producing countries could best be defended, for example by promoting "fair trade". Cocoa, cocoa butter and vegetable fats used in the manufacture of chocolate are mainly produced in Third World countries.
The common position seeks to harmonise the right to use vegetable fats other than cocoa butter in chocolate production throughout the Community. These fats have hitherto been allowed in only seven Member States. Under the new proposals up to 5% of the finished product will be allowed to consist of such fats, although only six vegetable fats may be used, all of tropical origin. Coconut oil will be allowed only for the manufacture of ice-cream and similar frozen products.
The labelling of chocolate products containing these fats will be supplemented by a conspicuous and clearly legible statement: "also contains fats in addition to cocoa butter". This will have to be in the same field of vision as the list of ingredients, clearly separated from that list, in lettering at least as large and in bold. An amendment demanding that these details appear on the front of the product was not carried.
It took more than two years of tough negotiations before Council could present this common position. The recommendation (at second reading, under the codecision procedure) is due to be debated by Parliament at its Strasbourg part-session in the week starting on 13 March.