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Author Topic: Chocolate warning  (Read 25114 times)

Offline sarah james

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Chocolate warning
« on: January 18, 2009, 08:16:19 PM »
What’s In My Chocolate?

Chocolate seems like such a simple food.  Fairly recently, however, I have noticed that food additives are creeping into the ingredient labels of chocolate bars.  Synthetic food additives are not something that I want to put into my body. 

The chocolate industry is now dominated by several large corporations throughout the world.  These corporations are driven to maximize profits by driving down the costs of raw ingredients in chocolate.  In addition to sourcing chocolate and sugar from farmers at prices so low that farmers are barely able to survive, many chocolate producers continue looking for ways to lower their prices by tampering with the traditional ingredients of chocolate such as cocoa butter and substituting food additives in their place.

However, for consumers frustrated at the increasing amounts of additives, flavor enhancers, stabilizers, artificial flavors and colors, and preservatives in our food today, the addition of artificially created ingredients a beloved, time-tested treat is just too much.  There are several ingredients currently approved to increase yield of chocolate without increasing the amount of raw materials, especially cocoa butter, in chocolate.  Cocoa butter is expensive because it is a valuable ingredient in the cosmetics industry.  Emulsifiers produce many of the same smoothness and melt-in-your-mouth consistency as cocoa butter but at a fraction of the cost.

Soy Lecithin
Lecithin is actually sold as a nutritional supplement but is used as an emulsifier in chocolate and many processed foods.  However, the lecithin found in chocolate is predominantly sourced from soy, which may be genetically modified and may contain traces of chemical solvents such as hexane and various pesticides.  Currently, 80 percent of soy produced in the world is genetically modified, and the demand of non-GMO soy is greater than the supply.  One of the reasons chocolate manufacturers are beginning to add synthetic emulsifiers is because non-GMO soy lecithin is rising in price due to costs of documentation and testing to certify the soy as non-GMO.  Therefore producers are looking to other means of cheaply improving the texture of chocolate. 

Food additive number 476, or PGPR, also known as:
Polyglycerol esters of interesterified ricinoleic acid
Polyglycerol esters of polycondensed fatty acids from castor oil
Glycerol esters of condensed castor oil fatty acids
Polyglycerol polyricinoleate

Palsgaard is one company specializing in producing emulsifiers and stabilizers for the food industry.   According to the Palsgaard website,“cocoa butter is an expensive raw material for chocolate manufacturers. By using PALSGAARD 4150 (PGPR) the chocolate recipe has lower costs in terms of less cocoa butter but also gives the benefit of having less fat.”  Essentially, using the chemical PGPR in chocolate is a way of cutting costs and increasing profit. 

There have been numerous studies of PGPR (E 476) on animals to determine its safety.  Although PGPR (E 476) has been approved for use as a food additive and is considered “safe” at levels of 0-7.5 mg/kg of body weight, the ingestion of this substance has been shown to cause physiological changes in the bodies of test animals. Although PGPR (E 476) has not been shown to be carcinogenic, several animal trials resulted in significant unexplained enlargement of the kidneys and livers of mice, rats, and chickens fed PGPR in as little as 14 days to a period of 104 weeks.  Levels of PGPR (E 476) of 3% or more in the diet produced this effect.  Scientists concluded that the liver enlargement was due to an increased workload.

Other additives
Danisco has a chocolate emulsifier called citric acid ester, which is formed through a reaction of a monoglyceride with citric acid.  Mono- and di- glycerides themselves (E 471) are also added to chocolate as emulsifiers and can be derived from genetically engineered vegetable oils such as soy.  They also may be a source of trans fat.  Another synthetic chocolate emulsifier is called ammonium phosphatide.  New food additives could potentially show up in chocolate so it is important to continue to read food labels.

Additional considerations
Fair trade chocolate promotes healthier communities by paying farmers fair prices for cocoa beans and discouraging child labor.  Dangerous work conditions, slave labor, child labor, and extreme poverty are common among cocoa plantations that are not fair trade certified. 
Organic chocolate does not contain pesticides and

The good news
Chocolate that does not contain any additives can be found.  Containing only chocolate liqueur, cocoa butter, sugar, and flavorings such as real vanilla, these chocolates are also usually fair trade, organic, and very high quality.  Yes, they are more expensive.  No, you can not usually buy them at the corner service station or the supermarket.  But they do exist, and with a little searching, you will be able to find them.  Buy good quality chocolate and enjoy in moderation. 

Some brands that currently do not contain soy lecithin or synthetic additives:
Askinosie, Art Bars, Vivani, Amedei, Domori, Living Earth, Trade Aid, Bonnat, Cluizel, and Noka, just to name a few.  These are some of the purest of chocolate bars and are often very expensive; however, there are many chocolate bars that contain do contain soy lecithin (better: non-GMO organic soy lecithin) but at least do not contain any synthetic additives.

Bibliography“New double action chocolate emulsifier from Danisco” Danisco, 2003 “Citric Acid Esters.” Danisco, 2009 “What Is Soy Lecithin And Why Is It In My Chocolate?” High on Health, 2008 Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, World Health Organization, Geneva Meeting, 1974 Nordic Food Additive Database; Nordic Working Group on Food Toxicology and Risk Assessment, 2004 “Fair Trade Chocolate: Bitter Reality About the Cocoa Industry” Oxfam New Zealand, 2009 “High Grade PGPR in Chocolate.” Palsgaard, 2009 Enig, Mary, Ph.D. “Mono- and Di- Glycerides.” The Weston A. Price Foundation, 2004

Offline AmyL

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Re: Chocolate warning
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2009, 11:15:39 PM »
Thanks! That was useful and interesting.

The other issue around chocolate that's become major news, of course, is milk, since the melamine-tainted Chinese milk powder found its way into Western chocolate products at Halloween time.
I was surprised and disturbed to learn that most American chocolate makers source at least some of their milk powder from China.

We actually made our kids throw away a bunch of Halloween chocolates this year; only Hershey's and one other brand (I forget which one) had never used Chinese milk.

Offline StephanieS

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Re: Chocolate warning
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2009, 12:22:39 PM »
I'm noticing a lot of pro-chocolate articles online recently, probably because we are approaching Valentine's day. The articles describe the benefits of cacao specifically but use the words "chocolate" and "cacao" interchangeably. When I can, I comment on the article, pointing out that the sugar, additives, and processing cancel out any antioxidant benefits that the author is touting. I then suggest making your own chocolate products with natural sweetners!


Offline sarah james

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Re: Chocolate warning
« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2009, 03:24:37 PM »
I think that an organic fair-trade dark chocolate without soy lecithin is a good "treat" if you're going to have one.  But I am really bothered that so many additives are going into chocolate, which is a pretty common food, and used to be relatively "safe."  I am in New Zealand right now and pretty much every commercial chocolate has some sort of scary additive like PGPR!  And, increasingly, other synthetic emulsifiers.  I feel paranoid and my boyfriend gets frustrated that I won't eat chocolate... among other things that have additives and other such things.

It's difficult, frustrating, and stressful to eat organic, natural food in today's world.  Especially if you are out of the little pockets of "green" like in Berkeley or San Francisco, etc.

Offline JulieP

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Re: Chocolate warning
« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2009, 07:00:07 PM »
I've written a book about the health benefits of chocolate and I speak up to 20 times/month on the subject, educating the public on how to read labels, what to look for and what to avoid, how much to eat per day and which brands are best.  For anyone reading the posts, I just want to point out that $3.00-7.00 for a chocolate bar is not's eating unhealthy chocolate that costs money.  Whenever I speak I make a point to remind people that skimping at the grocery store by not making healthy food choices (organic, pure ingredients, etc) ends up in their doctor's bank account.  It's just a matter of where you want to spend your money.  Read the labels, pay for good chocolate and enjoy!  Julie Pech, Author:  The Chocolate Therapist.