Tuesday, 5 May, 1998, 20:33 GMT 21:33 UK
- Christopher Columbus is said to have brought chocolate back to Europe after he visited South America in about 1504 but it only reached Britain in the 17th century. At the time it was made into a drink - but only for the wealthy, because of high import duties.
- British people are second only to the Swiss when it comes to chocolate consumption. The average Brit eats 8.6kg a year - more than 3kg ahead of the Americans but still 1.6kg behind the Swiss.
- Continental chocolate enthusiasts have waged a 25-year battle to stop Britain and
Ireland calling home-produced confectionery "milk chocolate" because of its 5% vegetable fat content - they want the British bars to be called "vegelate" instead.
- The debate over British chocolate also focuses on the proportion of cocoa solids in each bar. Continental plain chocolate commonly contains 70% cocoa solids as opposed to around 35% in the British version. The more cocoa - the more expensive the chocolate generally is.
- Some health experts say the purer the chocolate, the better it is for you. Chocolate with a cocoa content of more than 50% is high in magnesium and contains calcium, potassium, sodium and iron. It also has vitamins A1, B1, B2, C, D and E.
- The cocoa bean contains a substance called theobromine, similar to caffeine, and phenylethyline, a close relative of amphetamine.
- Low fat chocolate bars have more than trebled their share of the market in the last five years as weight conscious chocolate lovers search for a happy compromise. Brits tucked into 5,000 tonnes of low fat chocolate last year, compared with 1,200 tonnes in 1993. Women are the prime targets of the manufacturers of low fat chocolate.
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