April 23, 2007

This Is A Goddamn Outrage!

Workers and all oppressed people, rise up and defend chocolate from an insidious new attack by the big bourgeoisie!!

(And if you have a narrow approach--"Chocolate gave me zits in high school, and nobody would go to the prom with me so I haven't eaten it since"--be warned that many other foods will be adulterated, or further adulterated, under this attack.)

Let's get the ritual stipulations out of the way here first. Capitalism sucks. The regulatory agencies of the capitalist state aren't here to defend the masses. Their main functions are to 1) adjudicate disputes between various capitals, and 2) to make sure they have a workforce healthy enough to keep cranking out surplus value and numerous enough to keep labor costs down. Republican administrations, especially this one, are more naked and more venal in promoting the interests of big capital, but the Dems are different only in degree, etc., etc...

But I find this news story eyepoppingly outrageous. The banner has been taken up by Cybele May, who reviews candy here (I love the blogosphere) and whose op-ed piece on the subject has been carried by the LA Times, Newsday and other MSM outfits. In short, the Food and Drug Administration is

entertaining a "citizen's petition" to allow manufacturers to substitute vegetable fats and oils for cocoa butter.

The "citizens" who created this "petition" represent groups that would benefit most from this degradation of the current standards. They are the Chocolate Manufacturers Assn., the Grocery Manufacturers Assn., the Snack Food Assn. and...other food producing associations.

Let's unpack what these "citizens" are after. Their "petition" calls for the FDA to "Adopt Regulations of General Applicability to all Food Standards that would Permit, within Stated Boundaries, Deviations from the Requirements of the Individual Food Standards of Identity." In other words, to make it easier to ignore regulations and, among other crimes, allow the substitution of new ingredients for the ones traditionally used in a food and keep the food's name the same.

In the case at hand, big candy makers don't like paying for the cocoa butter in the goodies they manufacture, because it costs four times as much as other vegetable fats. Now, not only is cocoa butter a natural product of the cacao bean, the source of all chocolate, but as Wikipedia points out:

Cocoa butter is one of the ingredients used to make real chocolate. It has a melting point of around 34 to 38 degrees Celsius (93 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit), rendering chocolate a solid at room temperature that readily melts once inside the mouth.

Cocoa butter is one of the most stable fats known, containing natural antioxidants that prevent rancidity and give it a storage life of two to five years.

Big Choco want to replace this tasty and nutritional substance with whatever greasy transfat they can find cheap, and they want to call the resulting horror Chocolate.

I imagine that there is an anarcho or ultra-left take on this which might contend that chocolate is a drug that the proletariat uses to self-medicate and make bearable the suffering and meaninglessness of late capitalism or, contrariwise, argue that if chocolate is debased by the plutocracy, the masses will be stirred to revolt. I say, reject this "the worse, the better" thinking and hammer out an email to the FDA using this form.

And do it now! The public comment period ends April 25!

Remember, after all, that what they can do to chocolate today, they can do to beer tomorrow.

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