Labelling cocoa and chocolate products

The law relating to the labelling of cocoa and chocolate products is governed by the Cocoa and Chocolate Products (England) Regulations 2003.

The Regulations apply to cocoa and chocolate products, intended for human consumption that are sold to consumers and catering establishments.

Reserved descriptions

The following descriptions of products are referred to as “reserved descriptions”:

  • Cocoa butter;
  • Cocoa powder and cocoa;
  • Fat-reduced cocoa and fat-reduced cocoa powder;
  • Powdered chocolate and chocolate in powder;
  • Drinking chocolate, sweetened cocoa and sweetened cocoa powder;
  • Fat-reduced drinking chocolate, fat-reduced sweetened cocoa and fat-reduced sweetened cocoa powder;
  • Chocolate (including chocolate supplemented by vermicelli, flakes, couverture, gianduja and gianduja derivatives);
  • Milk chocolate (including milk chocolate supplemented by vermicelli, flakes, couverture, gianduja, gianduja derivatives and chocolate where the milk is replaced by cream or skimmed milk);
  • Family milk chocolate or milk chocolate;
  • White chocolate;
  • Filled chocolate, chocolate with … filling and chocolate with … centre;
  • Chocolate a la taza;
  • Chocolate familiar a la taza;
  • A chocolate and A praline.

The Regulations set out detailed criteria which must be met before a product can be described using one of these reserved descriptions.

The Regulations prohibit the sale of food with a label which bears, comprises or includes a reserved description unless:

  • the product corresponds with the reserved description for that product in question;
  • the description, derivative or word used is used in a context which indicates that it relates only to an ingredient of the food in question; or
  • the description, derivative or word is used in a context whereby and it cannot be confused with one of the reserved descriptions.

Labelling

When cocoa and chocolate products are sold they must be marked or labelled. The mark or label must contain the reserved description of the product.

Chocolate products containing vegetable fats other than cocoa butter must be conspicuously, clearly and legibly labelled “contains vegetable fats in addition to cocoa butter”. Such wording must be in the same field of vision as the list of ingredients, clearly separated from the list of ingredients, in bold lettering no less large than that of the list of ingredients and located near the reserved description. The reserved description may also appear elsewhere on the label.

Where the words” milk chocolate” are used the label must indicate the dry milk solid content of the product using the words “milk solids …% minimum”. For certain products this must be at least 14% and for certain other products this must be at least 20%.

Certain products must also bear a label indicating the total dry cocoa solids content expressed as “cocoa solids …% minimum”.

Certain cocoa products must bear a label indicating the cocoa butter content of the product.

Where certain chocolate products are sold in an assortment it is permissible to replace the reserved description with the words “assorted chocolates”, “assorted filled chocolates” or with similar wording and the list of ingredients can be a single list of ingredients for all the products in the assortment.

The labelling for chocolate, milk chocolate and couverture chocolate can be supplemented by information or descriptions relating to quality criteria as long as certain criteria are met.

The Food Labelling Regulations 1996 contain requirements as to the manner in which food should be marked or labelled.

Use of vegetable fats in chocolate products

The Regulations allow certain vegetable fats, other than cocoa butter, to be added the following products:

  • Chocolate (including chocolate supplemented by vermicelli, flakes, couverture, gianduja and gianduja derivatives);
  • Milk chocolate (including milk chocolate supplemented by vermicelli, flakes, couverture, gianduja, gianduja derivatives and chocolate where the milk is replaced by cream or skimmed milk);
  • Family milk chocolate or milk chocolate;
  • White chocolate;
  • Chocolate a la taza;
  • Chocolate familiar a la taza.

However, any added vegetable fat must not exceed 5% of the finished product after the total weight of any other edible substances used have been deducted, without reducing the minimum content of cocoa butter or total dry cocoa solids.

The authorised vegetable fats are as follows:

  • Illipe, Borneo tallow and Tengkawang;
  • Palm oil;
  • Sal;
  • Shea;
  • Kokum gurgi;
  • Mango kernel;
  • Coconut oil (in the manufacture of ice cream and similar frozen products)

Failure to comply with the Regulations

Contravention of the Regulations is a criminal offence punishable by a fine. However, a defence is available in certain circumstances in relation to exported products.