In Italy, the quality of chocolate has been protected by law since the 1930s: Law no. 916 of April 9th, 1931, regulate chocolate's production and commercialization, distinguishing between “chocolate” and its imitations, defined as “ersatz chocolate products”.
Chocolate is also one of the few food products to be regulated by a specific European law, aimed at defining its denominations and the relevant composition requirements.
After the birth of the European Common Market, previously existing laws from each one of the six member countries of the time were harmonized within the Directive 241/73, enacted in Italy through the Law no. 351 of April 30th, 1976.
Main denominations (Law no. 351, April 30th, 1976 – EC Directive 241/73)
- Chocolate: it must contain at least 35% of total dried cocoa substance and 18% of cocoa butter.
- Extra chocolate: it must contain at least 45% of total dried cocoa substance and 28% of cocoa butter.
- Milk chocolate: it must contain at least 25% of total dried cocoa substance, 14% of total dried substance of milk origin and 25% of total fat materials.
- Gianduia (Gianduja): it must be composed by a part of total dried cocoa substance (at least 32%) and by a part of finely ground hazelnuts (between 20 and 40 grams of hazelnuts every 100 grams of product).
- White chocolate: it must contain no less than 20% of cocoa butter and no less than 14% of total dried substance of milk origin.
The key innovations introduced by the Directive 2000/36/EC, enacted in Italy through the Law Decree no. 178 of June 12th, 2003, in-force in every Member Country since August 3rd, 2003, are the following:
- Extension to every European Union countries of the license to use, at optional title, within the maximum percentage of 5%, without modification of the minimum composition requirements as defined by the previous 1973 Directive, six vegetable fat materials of tropical origin, different from the cocoa butter. These vegetable fats have been selected according to criteria of chemical-physical compatibility with cocoa butter, and are exactly: illipe butter, shorea robusta stearin, karite butter, kokum butter, mango pit, palm butter.
- Obligation of indicating both the chocolate's ingredients and the product's expiry date on the label.
- Obligation, for products containing other fats apart from cocoa butter, of mentioning them on the label, beside the sale name, in a clearly visible and readable way, within the same visual field of the ingredients' list, and with bold characters of at least the same size of the phrase “contains other vegetable fats apart from cocoa butter”.
- License – for all those producers who don't use vegetable fats other than cocoa butter – to mention it explicitly and with full evidence on the label.
Since such substances have never been used - and still aren't - in Italy, as they have no relation with the national tradition, the Italian Administration – with the agreement of both the consumers and the sector's artisanal and industrial operators – had prefigured in the enacting regulations (Law Decree no. 178 of June 12th, 2003) the possibility of highlighting cocoa's butter sole presence through the simple wording “puro”, in order to allow consumers to recognize chocolate produced through the sole use of cocoa butter (precisely denominated “cioccolato puro”) in a clear and immediate way, thus distinguishing it from chocolate containing fats unrelated with the national tradition.
The European Commission promptly contested the initiative that both the Italian Government and Parliament had repeatedly and unanimously confirmed.
The Sentence of the EU Justice Court of November 25th, 2010 put the dispute to an end, by declaring the non-conformity of the wording ”cioccolato puro”, thus forcing Italy to conform with the sentence as soon as possible.
In order to follow the European Sentence, the Italian Government has included in the Community Law 2010, an article in repeal of the part regarding the use of the wording “cioccolato puro”, and of the relevant sanctions (articles 6 and 7, Law Decree 178/2003).
Considering the approach of the Administration, who chose to avoid the introduction of new definitions to highlight the absence of vegetable fats other than cocoa butter, AIDEPI, in order to maintain the original position of the Association, aims at introducing such information on products labeling through associative Guidelines.
More particularly, the Association suggests the option to complete the labeling of those chocolate products that don't contain any fat other than cocoa butter, with the wording "solo con puro cacao" or similar.
The aim of such an approach is to avoid that, in the lack of a uniform indication coming from the Administration on how to highlight the absence of vegetable fats as an alternative to cocoa butter, a maelstrom of highly diverse wordings may occur, with the consequence of generating confusion and disorientation in the consumers.