Importers in India today (16 August) welcomed the release of new draft standards for chocolate that would allow the inclusion of vegetable oil as an additive.

According to amended draft regulations published by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the addition of vegetable fats other than cocoa butter of up to 5% of the finished product would be allowed in chocolate, “after deduction of the total weight of any other added edible foodstuffs, without reducing the minimum contents of cocoa materials”.

Amit Lohani, the convenor of the Federation of Indian Food Importers (FIFI), said the new regulations would “help the market to grow at a much faster pace”. “Until now, any product which contained vegetable oil could not be called chocolate – even some of the well-known brands from Europe.”

Lohani said the FIFI had played a leading role in working with health chiefs to have existing regulations changed. “Vegetable fat helps to maintain the shape and texture of chocolate and it raises the melting point, which in a hot country such as India is also important.”

Lohani said the draft regulations could come into effect as early as September – in time for Diwali celebrations provided there are no major objections to the proposed changes.

He said some campaign groups in India have expressed concern about the popularity of chocolate products including vegetable fat and suggested links to obesity, but said the concerns were unfounded. 

“I do not think there will be a lot of negative comments,” Lohani said. “On average, chocolate consumption in India is about 150g-200g per person per year, which is not a great deal,” Lohani said. “It is not the inclusion of vegetable fat that makes people obese so it should be allowed.”

Lohani also revealed that diplomats based in India representing a number of chocolate-producing countries had been among those campaigning for the regulations to be changed.