The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - October 11

Italy will stand up in defence of artisan-made 'pure chocolate' on Thursday, with events throughout the country trumpeting its superiority over the competition. Among the events organized for 'Chocoday' is the presentation of a manifesto packed with information about pure chocolate's benefits and how it is produced. Traditional Italian chocolate-makers shun alternatives to cocoa butter, which northern European manufacturers tend to use up to the 5% limit allowed by EU regulations.

In 2003 purists successfully lobbied for the introduction of a new 'puro cioccolato' (pure chocolate) label here so consumers can spot the difference between the two types. They are worried about the threat of cheaper products eating into their market and are also pushing the EU to grant the best Italian chocolate "Traditional Speciality Guaranteed" (TSG) status.

Chocoday aims to show this is not the case and raise the public's awareness about one of the nation's culinary treasures. "It's an opportunity to inform people about Italian chocolate, which is among the best in the world in terms of quality and variety," said Silvio Bessone, the president of the chocolate-makers section of the Italian Food Artisans' Federation (Confartigianato Alimentare).

The Chocoday manifesto will not only show that artisan quality chocolate is better for the taste buds but also that it gives people in the developing world a fairer deal. Most artisan chocolate-makers use cocoa with Fairtrade-TransFair certification. This shows the cocoa was traded at a fair price for the Third World farmers and produced in an environmentally friendly way with full respect for workers' rights.

As well as objecting to vegetable substitutes to cocoa butter, artisan producer insist that pure chocolate must be made according to painstaking, traditional craft methods. Natural flavouring is allowed, artificial flavouring is not. The only other legal additive is soya lecitin - but not from genetically modified organisms. Non-milk fats are also prohibited, but fats contained in added ingredients such as nuts and raisins are OK.

Chocoday is organized by the hugely popular Eurochocolate festival, which kicks off in Perugia on Saturday.