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:
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?
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