So, there's a push by certain groups to get the FDA to change the standards of what constitutes chocolate. Lindsay Beyerstein, over at Majikthise, covered this back in April, but it's totally worth taking a minute to discuss.
This push is essentially an attempt by certain candy manufacturers to allow them to replace cocoa butter with other, low-cost, alternatives, but still call the resulting product "chocolate." The NYT article discusses a lot about how this would hurt chocolate lovers and the producers of cocoa beans (by lowering the demand for the beans, which are already somewhat pricey). While that's certainly a concern- as a chocolate lover, I'd hate for real chocolate to become more expensive than it already is, and I'd hate for the bean growers to face hardships that might limit my options for buying tasty chocolate treats- I think that there is something more important, if also more academic, going on here that should be given serious attention.
Lindsay mentions why this is important in her comments, but, unfortunately, not in the article itself. Labeling laws are an important tool for consumers. It's hard enough to educate ourselves on products without the law letting manufacturers lie to us. We rely on truth in labeling to help us figure out if we're purchasing what we think we're purchasing. As Lindsay puts it- "If the label says 'coffee' I want actual coffee beans, not chicory." I'm not opposed to chocolate substitutes being sold- but they should be clearly labeled as such. Chocolate is a specific thing, just as coffee, milk, and butter are. If something is made with vegetable oil and not milk, it's not butter, it's margarine. Which is fine- there's a market for margarine, and there's a market for carob or immitation chocolates. The important part is that the package has to make it clear which one you're buying. If I pick up a carton of "milk" I expect it to be milk, not soy milk. If I pick up something marked as "chicken nuggets" it should be made with chicken, not pork.
There are many candies on the market that use "chocolatey coatings" or have labels marking them as "chocolate-tasting." That kind of wording is used because their products do not meet the legal definition of "chocolate." They are chocolate substitutes. This push, though, is an attempt by some manufacturers to legalize intentionally labeling their dishonestly. It is an attempt to redefine what constitutes "chocolate" in such a way as to allow things that are not chocolate to be called such.
Allowing this to happen only benefits dishonest manufacturers.