Ideas of the perfect chocolate differ between nations and are reflected in food standards. Under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, the United Nations sponsors a Codex Alimentarius Commission, worldwide food standards. In 1981 the Codex Committee for Cocoa Products and Chocolate developed standards for chocolate (Codex Standard 87-1981) and cocoa powders and dry cocoa-sugar mixtures (Codex Standard 105-1981). All members of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (the United States being one) are obliged to consider the Commission's standards in setting their own.

United States


Not less than 15% cocoa liquor by weight. Sweetened with sucrose, or with mixtures of sucrose, dextrose and corn syrup solids in specified ratios.

“semi-sweet” and “bittersweet”

Not less than 35% cocoa liquor by weight.

The above types need not be milk-free; they can contain up to 12% milk solids. Beyond that lies milk chocolate.



“couverture:” not less than 32% cocoa butter.

White chocolate

Since U.S. standards required a product labeled chocolate to contain ground cacao nibs, for many years white chocolate sold in the United States was labeled something else. In the European Economic Community (Directive 75/155/EEC), white chocolate is free of coloring matter and consists of cocoa butter (not less than 20%), sucrose (not more than 55%), milk or milk solids (not less than 14%) and butter fat (not less than 3.5%).


Federal Register December 6, 1944.

CFR number 21, Part 14, Cacao Products (April 1, 1974).

Federal Register January 25, 1989. (call for revision)

S. Beckett.
The Science of Chocolate.
Springer Verlag, 2000.

The complete chocolate making process. Includes experiments for students.


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