Italy set for collision with EU over chocolate

By Peter Stiff

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Chocolate European union Eu

Italy is on course for a head-to-head battle with the EU over the
definition of pure chocolate.

The Italian government voted this week to uphold its definition of 'pure chocolate' in the face of opposition from the European Commission.

The vote upholds Italy's definition of who may use the 'pure chocolate' label. The definition only allows chocolate products with 100 per cent cocoa butters to be called 'pure chocolate.'

Natural flavourings and soya lecithin are allowed.

Italy introduced the special 'pure chocolate' label in 2003 to protect domestic chocolate makers.

The EU allows chocolate makers to use up to five per cent vegetable cocoa substitutes and thus rules that the labelling is discriminatory against foreign imports.

The decision by the Italian MPs to reject EU directives on labelling regulations relating to pure chocolate was almost unanimous.

The only MP not to vote against the amendment was the Italian European affairs minister who warned that Italy would be brought before the European Court of Justice.

Italy's producers will now look to build on their success in parliament by attempting to gain recognition of their definition of pure chocolate through the EU's quality labelling scheme.

They plan to apply to the European Commission to gain Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) status for their pure chocolate.

TSG status requires the name of the product to express the specific character of the food.

To gain the status the product must be traditional or established by custom. Distinguishing features must not being based on the geographical area or technical advances in production.

In the case of the Italian chocolate the TSG label would ensure the chocolate contains just cocoa butter rather than vegetable substitutes and that it has been made according to the traditional methods.

Another qualifying characteristic of the chocolate would be the exclusion of artificial flavourings, natural flavourings are allowed. The only other additive allowed is soya lecithin, provided that it is not genetically modified.

Non-milk fats are prohibited but fats found in added ingredients such as nuts and raisins.

Currently the Commission has granted TSG protection to only one confectionery product, Panellets.

Panellets are small sweets from Spain that are essentially made of marzipan.

Three different types of marzipan can be used - basic, coarse and fine - whilst the addition of starch, apple, preservatives or colourings is forbidden.

The EU introduced TSG status in 1992 alongside Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).

The aim of the systems is to promote and protect foods that may face unfair competition from products that pass themselves off as the genuine article and take the same name.

In order for producers and processors to register a product name they must first define the product according to precise specifications.

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