Mérieux NutriSciences - Chocolate

Most of the cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) production comes from West African countries (60% of the worlds' total cocoa is coming from the Ivory Coast and Ghana). Cocoa is mostly processed in the European Union and in Indonesia, United States and Brazil. Cocoa, chocolate and confectionary products are resulting from a long and complex process (plantation, gathering, maturation, roasting, extraction) of transformation of the beans. Along the process, manufacturers can find many standards/regulations they have to comply with in order to sell Cocoa, chocolate and derived products to end-consumers.

Products made out of cocoa

Cocoa beans can be used to produce many different products out of them, among which we count:

  • Cocoa
  • butter
  • nibs
  • Cocoa cake
  • Cocoa powder
  • Cocoa liquor
  • Couverture
  • Chocolate bars
  • Confectionary - visit our confectionary page to discover more about it and our services to support the industry

As all these products are linked to the use of cocoa beans (following their transformation) and highly consumed by the market, many regulations have been implemented in Europe to make sure they remain safe for the end-consumers.


Cocoa and chocolate products: Safety and Quality

The main contaminants to be found in cocoa, chocolate and derived products are:

  • heavy metals and in particular cadmium,
  • pesticides,
  • mycotoxins,
  • PAHs (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons),
  • microbiological hazards,
  • and miscellaneous hazards.
Blue Paper extract - Cocoa product recalls in 2020

Blue Paper 2021 extract - Cocoa product recalls in 2020

According to the analysis of the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) data for 2020 (thanks to Safety HUD, a Mérieux NutriSciences' solution), cocoa and chocolate products have been linked to 42 different events in 2020 in Europe. This number has been decreasing over the year by almost two times.

Among the different events notified, Allergen is the first cause of recalls in 2020 within Europe with 17 notifications and has been increasing.

Sustainable cocoa production

The European Union is the largest chocolate manufacturer and exporter market and the world's largest importer of cocoa, accounting for 60% of world imports of cocoa (ITC 2020).

In the context of the European Commission’s political priorities including the European Green Deal and a zero tolerance approach on child labour, the Commission initiated in 2019 a multi-stakeholder dialogue in support of a sustainable cocoa sector in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana.

The popularity of specialty chocolate is increasing in Europe. Sustainable cocoa is also becoming more important in the European chocolate market. Europeans want to know more about cocoa production, the story of their producers and communities and the impact of their purchases. Long-term and direct trade relationships between cocoa producers and chocolate makers are also becoming more important. Bean to bar means that the maker controls every step of the production process, from buying, or in some cases producing, the cocoa beans to the creation of the chocolate bar. This new approach is shortening the cocoa chain, European importers are trying to create better connections between producers and chocolate makers and act as service providers in this new environment.


Cocoa and chocolate products (Europe) regulations

European Cocoa and chocolate market is regulated by Directive 2000/36/EC that lays down rules for the composition and labelling of cocoa and chocolate products and defines different categories of chocolate products including chocolate, milk chocolate, family milk chocolate, white chocolate, filled chocolate etc.

Furthermore, all the General Food law EU regulations requires to be complied with:

  • General Food Law - Regulation (EC) No 178/2002
  • General Rules of Food Hygiene - Regulation (EC) No 852/2004
  • Labelling - Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011
  • Nutrition and Health Claims - Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006, Regulation (EU) No 432/2012
  • Additives - Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008
  • Flavourings - Regulation (EC) No 1334/2008
  • Fortification with vitamins and minerals - Regulation (EC) No 1925/2006
  • Contaminants - Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006, Council Regulation (EEC) No 315/93, Regulation (EC) No 333/2007
  • Acrylamide - Regulation (EU) 2017/2158
  • Pesticides - Regulation (EC) No 396/2005
  • Irradiation - Directive 1999/2/EC
  • Extraction solvents - Directive 2009/32/EC
  • Official Controls in Europe - Regulation (EU) 2017/625

Moreover, there are several Codex Standards for cocoa and cocoa products by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States). Additionally, the International Standards for the Assessment of Cocoa Quality and Flavour coordinated by the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT- International Center for Tropical Agriculture, has started to issue international standards for assessing cocoa quality and flavour, reviewing practices in the cocoa sector.

Producers must build adequate safety and quality controls to keep up with market needs in terms of:

  • supply chain traceability,
  • origin guarantee,
  • nutritional quality,
  • food safety,
  • selection of raw materials,
  • standardization of best practices,
  • new formulations,
  • presentation of product (packaging, advertising).

Furthermore, the new trends in demand for high-quality fine flavour cocoa and single-origin and/or single-estate (one farm) chocolates is getting stronger. At the same time, sustainability is becoming a value for the European chocolate market, that requires even higher standards of control to guarantee the quality and origin of the cocoa and chocolate products.


Cocoa and chocolate products services: How can Mérieux NutriSciences support you?

Cocoa and chocolate products testing

Cocoa beans

Physical assessments are usually carried out during the storage period before the samples are processed into powder, liquor or chocolate.

Assessments include: Moisture, Bean Count (beans/100 g), Individual Bean Weight, Cut Tests, Foreign matter, Contaminants, Microorganisms, mainly Salmonella


Cocoa and chocolate products

Composition and Nutritional analysis

  • Humidity, protein, fat, carbohydrates, energy value, saturated fats, sugars, salt

  • Fibers (total dietary fiber, betafructosans, beta glucans, GOS, inuline, fructans)
  • Other nutrients:cholesterol, starch, polyalcohols, isomalt, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, trans fatty acids.
  • Vitamins: Water soluble: vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B8 (biotin), vitaminB9 (folic acid), vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin). Fat soluble: vitamin A (retinol), vitamin D (cholecalciferol), vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), vitamin K (floquinone).
  • Minerals (sodium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, zinc, iodine, potassium, copper, manganese, fluorides, selenium, chromium, molybdenum, chlorides).
  • Organic acids (citric, acetic, lactic, tartaric, ...)
  • Flavanols (catechin, epicatechin, caffeine, theobromine)
  • Alcohol (etanol)
  • Amino acids



  • Heavy metals (Cd, Pb, As, Hg, Cu, Ni and others), especially Cd from Latin American countries due to volcanic activity and forest fires. Regulation (EU) No 488/2014
  • Pesticides;
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs);
  • Mineral oils (MOH, MOSH, MOAH)
  • Foreign matter.
  • Allergens (nuts- almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, walnuts; gluten, milk, casein, beta-lactoglobulin, egg, soy, sulphites,....)
  • Dioxins, furans and coplanar Polychlorinated biphenyls - PCBs,
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (includes benzopyrene)
  • Melamine and related compounds
  • Mycotoxins (ochratoxin A, aflatoxins B1, B2, G1, G2, aflatoxin M1, deoxynivalenol, zearalenone, fumonisins B1, B2, Patulin…)
  • GMO
  • Per-chlorate and chlorate
  • Phthalates
  • Acrylamide
  • 2-3 MCPD and Glycidol
  • Tropane alkaloids
  • Chlorinated paraffins
  • Benzol
  • Residual solvents
  • 16-0 Methyl Cafestol (in green coffea canephora species not in arabica species)
  • Pyrrolizidine alkaloids


Additives allowed or prohibited

  • Antioxidants
  • Dyes (including Sudan red)
  • Preservatives : benzoic and sorbic acid,
  • Sweeteners: aspartame, acesulfame, sucralose, cyclamate, saccharine ….
  • Propylene glycol, alcohols,
  • Vanillin, coumarin


Quality Parameters

  • Fat profile and stability of fat: free fatty acids, hexanal, acidity of fat, rancimat, peroxide index, triglycerides
  • methyl ester of butyric acid
  • Nutrients and ingredients: protein, dietary fiber, starch, organic acids (oxalic)
  • Polyalcohols, polyphenols, milk, whey
  • Percentage of milk fat (in milk products)
  • Total solids from cocoa
  • Methylxanthines -Theobromine and caffeine,
  • Cut test in cocoa beans,
  • Cocoa husk,
  • Cocoa powder fineness,
  • Fragments of insects
  • Solubility and shell content in cocoa powder
  • 5- Hydroxymethylfurfural and acrylamide


Technical services

  • Microbiological quality indicator microorganisms
  • Microbiological Pathogens analysis
  • Sensory expert panel tests
  • Sensory consumer hedonic tests
  • Regulatory Compliance
  • Multicountry Labelling
  • Food Safety Compliance
  • Food quality and food safety assessment
  • Process validation
  • Shelf life studies
  • Challenge test
  • Training
  • Sampling and diagnosis
  • Food Contact Materials
  • Sustainability Services


Contact Us

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