BRUSSELS – There is no such thing as "pure chocolate," the EU high court ruled Thursday, ending an EU-Italy food fight over chocolate labels.
The ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union voided an Italian law that recognizes some delicacies as "pure chocolate."
The court said if a product is made from 100 percent cocoa butter, that fact must be listed on the ingredients table only. It also said the EU's 1999 chocolate labeling rules make no room for a "pure chocolate" reference like the one Italy enacted in a 2003 law.
Once vegetable fats are included in the production of chocolate — a popular practice in some EU nations, notably Britain — then the label must say, "contains vegetable fats in addition to cocoa butter," the court said.
The EU labeling rules took effect in 1999 after a lively debate pitting countries like Britain — where chocolate usually contains a substitute vegetable fats — against purists like Belgium, Italy and others, where traditionalist chocolate makers use only cocoa butter.
EU spokesman Roger Waite welcomed Thursday's court ruling, saying the EU rules pursue a fair balance between Europe's two different chocolate cultures.
"There is the culture of chocolate made purely from cocoa butter and there is the culture in a number of EU member states — including the United Kingdom — where there are other vegetable fats used," he said.
In 1999, all EU nations agreed "there would be something on the label making clear whether it's pure cocoa butter" or not, said Waite.
He said it was agreed to stick to the name chocolate but to let the ingredients indicate the quality of the chocolate.
"This is where the Italian rules are not in conformity," he added.
The European Commission had sued Italy, saying the EU law aims to inform consumers in a neutral way about the quality of chocolate on the basis of its ingredients.