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Cocoa and chocolate products
The Internal Market Council on 28 October, adopted by qualified majority, the Belgian and The Netherlands delegations voting against and the Luxembourg delegation abstaining, its common position on a directive on cocoa and chocolate products intended for human consumption.
The common position will be transmitted to the European Parliament for its second reading in accordance with the co-decision procedure.
The proposal has its origin in the drive for simplification of too detailed directives requested by the Edinburgh European Council, in 1992. It was submitted by the Commission to the Council on 30 May 1996, at the same time as proposals for six other vertical directives on foodstuffs (i.e. directives laying down very specific rules on the composition, manufacturing specifications, packaging and labelling of certain foodstuffs).
The most important element of this draft directive is to authorise the use, in the production of chocolate, of vegetable fats other than cocoa butter up to a limit of 5 per cent of the weight of the finished product. The current chocolate directive, from 1973, does not foresee this possibility; however, seven Member States were granted the possibility to maintain their national rules at the time of their respective accessions to the Community (Denmark, Ireland, UK, Portugal, Austria, Finland and Sweden).
Key elements of the draft directive on cocoa and chocolate products intended for human consumption are as follows:
A harmonised solution for the use of non-cocoa butter vegetable fats: such fats may be added to chocolate products at a level of not more than 5 per cent of the finished product.
A definition of the fats and a list of the fats which will be authorised: these fats must be cocoa butter equivalents complying with certain criteria (non-lauric fats, perfect miscibility with cocoa butter and compatibility with its physical properties, obtained only by refining and/or fractionation with enzymatic treatment being specifically excluded). The list comprises six vegetable fats of tropical origin which correspond to those currently being used in the Member States which were granted the above-mentioned exemption:
Illipe, Borneo tallow or tenkawang;
Furthermore, coconut oil may be allowed but only in chocolate used for the manufacture of ice-cream and similar frozen products.
The principle of "double labelling" for products containing other vegetable fats than cocoa butter. Their mention in the list of ingredients must be supplemented "by a conspicuous and clearly legible statement: 'contains vegetable fats in addition to cocoa butter'. This statement shall 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 with the name under which the product is sold nearby; notwithstanding this requirement, the name under which the product is sold may also appear elsewhere".
A reminder that the general legislation on foodstuffs labelling (Directive 79/112/EEC) "does not preclude the labelling of chocolate products to indicate that vegetable fats other than cocoa butter have not been added, provided the information is correct, neutral, objective, and does not mislead the consumer".
A detailed annex listing the names, definitions and characteristics of the different cocoa and chocolate products; the sales names listed in this annex shall apply only to the products referred to therein and must be used in trade to designate them.
Maintaining of the status quo of the derogation granted to the UK and Ireland as regards the use of the name "milk chocolate" and of the labelling of milk solids. However, it provides for a new name in the English language for the product called "Chocolat de mÅnage au lait" in French or "Haushaltsmilchschokolade" in German: "Family milk chocolate" (instead of the former "milk chocolate with high milk content").
The Commission (assisted by the Standing Committee on Foodstuffs) shall have the power to bring the directive into line with general Community provisions applicable to foodstuffs (e.g. if the chocolate directive needs adapting subsequent to changes in the directive on food labelling or the directive on food additives) and to adapt to technical progress certain technical provisions contained in the annexes. The compromise leaves the door open, in a revision clause, to the possibility of transferring more implementing powers to the Commission at a later stage.
A Council statement inviting the Commission to make a report within four years of the Directive's adoption regarding its impact on the economies of those countries producing cocoa and non-cocoa butter vegetable fats.
Two statements concerning the question of methods of analysis to verify compliance with the 5 per cent limit (these statements refer in particular, to the need for developing such methods urgently and call on the Commission to take all possible steps to that effect).
Member states would have a 36 months transposition period (i.e. products that conform to the definitions and rules laid down in the directive must have access to the shelves from that time at the latest, while products which fail to conform to the directive would be prohibited from that time; products labelled before this 36-month period has lapsed could still be sold until stocks have been exhausted, even if they do not comply with the directive).
The existing Directive 73/241/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to cocoa and chocolate products intended for human consumption would be repealed.