Whole Bean Chocolate, Raw Chocolate, etc and the law

David Menkes
@david-menkes
02/01/15 03:40:57PM
32 posts

Obviously a US-based opinion as that's where I'm at and where I'm going to base my opinion on, and what I'd love others to chime in on. Rather than just my opinion, I'd love to get a conversation going because I think this may be a larger issue at some point.

So I know Sacred Chocolate is somewhat of an easy target as they do both whole-bean and "raw" chocolate. I don't mean to single them out but they cover both areas I'm interested in so I'll use them as an example. Let me preface this by saying I've never tasted Sacred's stuff and for all I know it could be awesome. I have tasted other "unroasted" chocolate that was awesome.

So, shells first -

On a pure legal front, as far as I understand the FDA regulates the shell content of chocolate to 1.75% by volume:

http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=163.110

Being that shells are around 20% of the weight of the bean (or more, depending on origin and a number of other factors), that would make Sacred in violation of the FDA regulation, right? So how did they even pass a health inspection?

I read the discussion earlier last year about Paul Young's whole bean chocolate (which I guess was discontinued?) which mentioned similar concerns. But I'm only now finding out that Sacred Chocolate is currently doing this in the US. It blows my mind. And the reasons for doing it are to promote the health benefits of the shell (!). I've also seen people candy-coating whole cacao beans which makes sense from a manufacturing standpoint (who wants to hand peel tens of thousands of beans?) but not necessarily from a health standpoint.

Now, I'm of the opinion Live and Let Live and these folks are entitled to their opinions on what's healthier about eating the shell or whatever, but here's my concern and what I'd love to discuss - Say that a bunch of people get seriously ill from eating Whole Bean chocolate or Raw chocolate or some other "unconventional" chocolate. The FDA comes in and says "yeah, no we need to tighten regulations on chocolate." Suddenly the rest of us will have to jump through extra hoops when it comes to importing, warehousing, and processing raw cacao beans, even if we end up making chocolate from fully roasted, deshelled cacao. More to the point, I could totally see the Craft Chocolate movement in the US hit critical mass and finally garnering the attention of the Big Chocolate companies, who would use any illness outbreak from a small maker as a way to push additional regulations through via lobbyists, making it more difficult for us to operate. Am I being paranoid? Probably. But don't you all remember what happened with Odwalla with their unpasteurized apple juice that sickened 70 kids (and led to many of their deaths) and led to sweeping changes in the juice industry in the 90s? They felt that unpasteurized was heathier and retained more nutrients. Sound familiar?

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10049198

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1996_E._coli_case_from_Odwalla_juice

That's exactly the sort of thing I worry about with craft chocolate. It's pretty much a free-for-all and the fact of the matter is raw cacao beans should be a well-documented source with standardized storage and kill steps, regardless of being Raw or whatever. I personally like the fact that Big Government is out of my kitchen when it comes to my cacao processing, but I still consider this a looming issue. Hollywood regulated itself in the 1930s specifically so the government didn't intervene. Did they go too far? Of course. The idea was ultimately abandoned. I'm just throwing out ideas because, to quote any number of movies: I have a bad feeling about this.


updated by @david-menkes: 04/09/15 09:20:36AM
Clay Gordon
@clay
02/01/15 04:35:49PM
1,680 posts

David -

These are all very good questions.

Legally, Sacred Chocolate should not be able to call what they make chocolate because it's outside of the standard of identity for chocolate with respect to shell content.

When it comes to "raw" chocolate there is an increased risk of getting sick because pathogens that would normally be killed during roasting aren't.

Practically, the FDA is not going to do anything until a whole lot of people get sick. At that point the FDA will take a look at these chocolates and may or may not issue guidelines. I don't think that "Big Chocolate" is going to lobby for regulation as the market is too small for them to bother with. Instead they will used theit advanced manufacturing skills to create neutriceutical chocolates "improved" using extracts, as Mars does now.

One thing that many small chocolate makers may not know (but it's something I tell all my consulting clients) is that they are required to register with the FDA as a food manufacturing facility - and there are some specific things they must do, such as having a written, documented, procedure for cleaning beans and removing any metal objects before roasting. By registering with the FDA you give consent to have them inspect your facility and they can fine you or shut you down if they find things they don't like. While you might not want to invest in a formal HACCP plan, having a documented set of procedures that show that you are aware of the issues and that you have processes in place is a very good idea.

Anyone making chocolate should get their chocolate tested at a lab. Plate test, maybe heavy metals. You can specifically test for salmonella and e coli. If you are NOT doing this, you should. Contact your insurance company and see what doing this might do to reduce the cost of your general and product liability policy premiums.




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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
David Menkes
@david-menkes
02/01/15 04:58:30PM
32 posts

Clay - yeah we've been talking to Dandelion about getting testing done, especially with cacao from our farm in Guatemala as it hasn't yet been imported to the US before in any quantity.

Sebastian
@sebastian
02/02/15 11:48:38AM
754 posts

Having spent some time with my fair share of folks at the FDA - i can say with some degree of confidence that this is on their radar, and good things are not in store for those who habitually violate the standards and/or put consumers at risk.  That said, there's lots of threats to the food system, and not all of them are #1 priority, so it's difficult to say when the hammer will fall, but it will fall.  Remember that pathogens are only one of the category of 'bad things' that reside on shells.  Heavy metals and mycotoxins are also very real concerns.

timwilde
@timwilde
02/02/15 01:48:45PM
36 posts

It is interesting and I find the whole Raw Food think kind of...hmm, to remain diplomatic and civil.....stupid.   One of the reasons I got into chocolate was because of interest in where my food comes from and chasing down and reading up on food science.  I essentially became a foodie because of demonization of various ingredients. Big ones I see in chocolate is lecithin and corn syrup (high fructose or otherwise).  But I digress. that's a whole topic on it's own.

Something I noticed about the link you posted.  The shell content only seems to be an identification of selling and marketing cocoa nibs as a food in and of themselves.  So when you go to the store and find a bag of cocoa nibs; that's the standards that are required.  The reason I mention this is it seems that the big industry folks have toyed with if they havent already moved to just keeping the hulls in the processing because it accounts for 20% of "waste"  If processed and refined correctly other than a slightly more bitter and "dry" taste, I'm not sure there's any way to enforce that without sending inspectors to the factory as it's not readily noticible and I'm not entirely sure that it's testable either.

For the raw people; unfortunately it's going to take a small epidemic (more than one or 2 isolated cases) of someone getting sick before the FDA really moves on anything.  Right now, our politics have a lot of our safety agencies sorely underfunded which means they dont have quite the enforcement capacity as we would expect. Hopefully that changes, but until then, FDA and USDA are largely reactionary to problems as opposed to heading them off at the pass like they should.

Not meaning to dismiss them outright, so I do appologize for the wording here.  It seems like the majority of the Raw Food enthusiasts are able bodied adults that tend to be of a more new-age hippy mindset.  As long as it stays that way, I dont see too much of an issue.  It's when they start feeding this stuff to thier kids, that's the only time that I think that we'll feel the reverberations and the government will step in.

Clay Gordon
@clay
02/02/15 04:12:29PM
1,680 posts

Tim:

The relevant regs are in CFR 21 Part 163. The 1.75% figure for residual shell applies to nib - as all chocolate gets made from nib and this specification gets inherited by chocolate liquor, etc.

I have not heard about much lobbying by the big chocolate makers to increase this because they know - as Sebastian has said - that pathogens, heavy metals, and mycotoxins are mainly in the shell - and the shell messes with both flavor and texture in really quite negative ways.

 




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clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
timwilde
@timwilde
02/02/15 04:28:30PM
36 posts

I stand corrected then :)  I misunderstood the labeling on the FDA's site.   I wasnt suggesting that the big guys were lobbying for change on that regard, but I've heard discussions that it was suggested as a cost cutting measure.

Ning-Geng Ong
@ning-geng-ong
04/07/15 03:40:18AM
36 posts

To me the whole bean chocolate marketing and to some extend the raw chocolate marketing are NOT targetting the flavor-centric audience like me (and you?). I have an aunt that swears by the benefits of raw food, and naturally would grab for the raw chocolate on the shelf, despite its flavor, or lack-of. The motivation here is one that is emotional, and no amount of rationalizing against whole bean / raw choc would change any minds... For the record, I made a chocolate with extra shells that were winnowed, just for kicks, and I really don't taste any merits in terms of flavor. I first hoped that the sugars from the pulp may come through slightly but after the fermentation and roasting, only the cardboard profile is dominant. I've since moved on.

Sebastian
@sebastian
04/07/15 06:48:03AM
754 posts

People also swore for centuries that using leeches to suck out the bad blood would heal their ailments, when in fact it simply made it worse.  Simply because someone beleives something is good for them when all the evidence points to the contrary doesn't mean we should embrace it.

Brad Churchill
@brad-churchill
04/20/15 07:11:31PM
527 posts

Kind of like bankers and lawyers today.....  Oh...and real estate sales people, and credit card companies.... Haha!

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