Special arrangements were made when Britain, Denmark and Ireland joined the EU in 1973 to enable them to continue the existing practice of allowing chocolate to be made in the traditional way on the proviso that it would not be exported to other EU, countries where chocolate can only be called chocolate if it is made with pure cocoa butter. Similar arrangements were negotiated on later enlargements with Portugal, Austria, Finland and Sweden where vegetable fat is also used.
MEPs now have before them Council's common position that would change the current rules by allowing chocolate made with vegetable fats other than cocoa butter to circulate freely. 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. The labelling of chocolate products containing these fats will be supplemented by a clearly legible statement: "also contains fats in addition to cocoa butter".
A report from the Environment Committee will be recommending that Parliament adopt almost unamended the common position. However the reporter Paul LANNOYE (Greens/EFA, B) was himself against some key points in the common position, but was outvoted. The committee is calling 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 is also asking 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.