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The BBC's Colin Blane
"Decision will affect some of Britain's best known brands"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 15 March, 2000, 12:10 GMT
Sweet victory for UK chocolate
The chocolate dispute began in 1973
British chocolate will go on sale across Europe after a 27-year battle between the UK and its EU partners is finally resolved.

European MPs have voted to allow chocolate made with up to 5% vegetable fats or up to 20% milk content to be sold in all 15 member states.

The decision will affect some of Britain's best known brands including Mars and Kit Kat.

It has taken nearly 30 years to be able to buy a Cadbury's Flake as easily in Madrid as Manchester

Philip Whitehead MEP
All EU countries will have to sell high milk content chocolate bars and chocolate containing vegetable fats, such as those made by leading UK manufacturers, but the products will be labelled as Family Milk chocolate on exports.

The dispute has divided the EU since 1973 when Britain, along with Ireland and Denmark, won an opt out from EU law saying only cocoa butter could be used in chocolate.

But so-called chocolate 'purists', led by Belgium and France, have long campaigned against vegetable oil use. They ban their own chocolate from containing vegetable fats.

Labour Euro MP and consumer affairs spokesman Philip Whitehead said: "It has taken nearly 30 years to be able to buy a Cadbury's Flake as easily in Madrid or Munich as in Manchester.

"Consumers will now be able to buy the chocolate they want, where they want it."

The chocolate campaign is among the longest running of Britain's disputes with its European neighbours, stretching back to when the country first joined the EU.

Cadbury's 'family milk chocolate'
Since 1973, EU law has allowed each member state to decide whether or not to ban the use of vegetable fats in its own and imported chocolate.

Until Wednesday's ruling, seven EU countries allow vegetable fat and eight - Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Luxembourg, Germany, Greece and Holland - chose not to sell the product.

In February 1984 the European Commission tried to resolve the row, suggesting that UK chocolate should have unfettered access to the rest of Europe but the move failed.

Now UK-style milk chocolate with 20% milk content will have to be labelled 'family milk chocolate' in continental Europe but just 'milk chocolate' at home.

And chocolate with a maximum of 5% vegetable fats will have the words 'contains vegetable fats in addition to cocoa butter'.

During the 27-year history of the dispute some of the best brains in Brussels and EU member states have spent time grappling with questions such as whether chocolate containing vegetable fat is worthy of the name chocolate.

And successive British governments have had to fend off attempts to label the British product as 'vegelate' - and even attempts to ban it altogether.

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See also:

29 Sep 99 | The Economy
Chocolate war breakthrough on hold
28 Nov 98 | Entertainment
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