Increasingly people are noticing that their favorite treats from childhood are not quite how they remember them, one of those is chocolate.
In 2007, slipped into a "citizen's petition" to the FDA from the Grocery Manufacturers Association, it was suggested by candy manufacturers that the
very definition of chocolate be changed. Fortunately, it was not.
At issue was being able to call something "chocolate". The manufacturers
wanted to be able to call a chocolate substitute, "chocolate". There was wide consumer backlash but that didn't stop the candy companies from doing
what they wanted anyways.
What was it they were really trying to do by changing the definition? Increase profits.
Cocoa is expensive. There are several issues related to growing and harvesting cocoa -
- that drive up the cost of cocoa production,
particularly when considering such things as fair trade, sustainability and social responsibility.
So, rather than go down that profit-eating path, candy manufacturers went another route - additives.
Cocoa butter is vegetable fat that has a very sought after quality - it melts at body temperature. It is responsible for that gnoshy texture and the
"melt in your mouth" quality of your chocolate. Cocoa powder or solids is what is left after the cocoa butter is removed and it gives chocolate the
It's harder to fake the taste of chocolate without people crying foul. But the texture, not so much - there are similarly textured substitutes, both
natural and processed. That's where polyglycerol polyricinoleate
, PGPR, comes in
as a substitute for cocoa butter.
In many ways, the story of PGPR in chocolate is but a small chapter in a larger narrative about how convoluted our industrial food system has become:
an alphabet soup of fillers and cheap ingredients that challenge the original definition of the product they seek to emulate, questionably sourced raw
materials, and a cast of large corporations attempting to appeal to the lowest common denominator acceptable for human consumption to keep costs low
and profits high.
Things you probably don't want to know about
Take out raw ingredients and replace them with additives and then replace those additives with other less-expensive additives when the first
generation of additives becomes too expensive.
It's not even just PGPR, another concerning additive/substitute is tertiary
. Although it's not actually cocoa butter, at least PGPR has no known problems [GRAS or Generally Regarded As Safe (for human
consumption)] - TBHQ, on the other hand, is a petroleum based product
used in some chocolates and other junk foods and is highly debated as
being unhealthy for human consumption.
It's astounding to me and a bit Orwellian that food manufacturers are allowed to suggest a change in the definition of a food product
-"chocolate-y" "chocolate-flavored" "chocolate-like" are not chocolate. And when denied the change in definition they just put the additives in anyway
and that was okay with the FDA.
Reading candy packaging is like reading a chemistry textbook. Even trying to do a bit of research on the topic of candy/chocolate is fraught with lots
of double speak and caveats. In fact here is the language used to explain why manufacturers like to use additives:
"Consumer expectations still define the basic nature of a food. There are, however, no generally held consumer expectations today concerning the
precise technical elements by which commonly recognized, standardized foods are produced. Consumers, therefore, are not likely to have formed
expectations as to production methods, aging time or specific ingredients used for technical improvements, including manufacturing efficiencies."
Essentially they feel consumers won't care, can't tell, etc. but it's very good for their bottom line.
So, this Valentine's Day, if you really love your sweetheart, steer clear of the cliché box of chocolates or look for fair trade, high quality
edit on 2/12/2015 by kosmicjack because: (no reason given)