European chocolate must not contain more than 5% vegetable fats, other than cocoa butter© Salina Hainzl
JRC method to detect chocolate fraud becomes international standard
EU countries are the biggest consumers of chocolate confectioneries in the world. A technique developed by the JRC Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) to measure vegetable fats in milk chocolate has become the first such method to be adopted as a standard by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). It has been developed to enable the enforcement of the so-called 'Chocolate Directive', which stipulates that European chocolate must not contain more than 5% vegetable fats, other than cocoa butter.
European legislation allows the addition of up to 5% of vegetable fats other than cocoa butter in chocolate products and stipulates that consumers be informed by appropriate labelling of the product. The threshold of 5% is also an essential requirement for these products to move freely within the internal market.
Prior to the development of the JRC method, no validated methodology existed in this field. It was therefore not straightforward to check whether manufacturers were correctly reporting the amount of vegetable fats other than cocoa butter in milk chocolate, as their chemical composition and physical properties resemble those of cocoa butter very closely, thus making them extremely difficult to quantify or even detect. This left the door open for disputes and uncertainty as to whether or not milk chocolate products fulfilled legal requirements.
The reliable analytical method to detect and quantify so-called cocoa-butter equivalents (CBEs) in milk chocolate, successfully developed at IRMM, has now been adopted as standard ISO 11053:2009.
To help analytical chemists implement the testing methods for chocolate products correctly, JRC-IRMM has also developed a set of so-called toolboxes, which can be freely downloaded from the JRC-IRMM website. The toolbox comprises the method descriptions, electronic evaluation sheets, and links to the appropriate cocoa butter reference materials which can be ordered via JRC-IRMM's online catalogue.