Regulations of Chocolate

Chocolate Regulations

In some countries, there are specific regulations as to what can be marketed as 'chocolate' and what different varieties of chocolate are comprised of. Inevitably, these regulations differ from country to country, though many have no concrete definition of what 'chocolate' is when sold to the consumer. Of course though, these places will have other regulations that must be followed for general sale.

European Economic Area

According to the European Union’s guidelines, chocolate can fall into a variety of categories depending on its make-up[1][2][3]. Broadly speaking, they can be subcategorised into four main varieties: chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and 'chocolate a la taza', each themselves (with the exception of white chocolate) divided up into various types depending on the amounts of their basic constituents. These standards also apply to countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) that are not part of the EU, such as Norway and Iceland, out of convenience.

Products marketed as simply 'chocolate', with no qualifier, are what is commonly known as 'dark chocolate'; that is, chocolate with a high content of both cocoa solids and butter, and no milk content. 'Milk chocolate'’ meanwhile is characterised by fewer cocoa solids and, as the name suggests, milk. 'White chocolate' is comprised of cocoa butter and milk solids, but no cocoa solids. Least familiar to consumers would be the term 'chocolate a la taza'. This refers to chocolate products that contain flour or starch[2][3].

Below is a table of the different types of chocolate under EU law and their respective contents:

Product Total dry cocoa solids Cocoa butter Non-fat cocoa solids Total fat1 Milk fat Milk solids Flour/ starch
Chocolate ≥35% ≥18% ≥14% - - - -
Couverture chocolate ≥35% ≥31% ≥2.5% - - - -
Chocolate vermicelli/flakes ≥32% ≥12% ≥14% - - - -
Milk chocolate ≥25% - ≥2.5% ≥25% ≥3.5% ≥14% -
Couverture milk chocolate ≥25% - ≥2.5% ≥31% ≥3.5% ≥14% -
Milk chocolate vermicelli/flakes ≥20% - ≥2.5% ≥12% ≥3.5% ≥12% -
Family milk chocolate ≥20% - ≥2.5% ≥25% ≥5% ≥20% -
Cream chocolate ≥25% - ≥2.5% ≥25% ≥5.5% ≥14% -
Skimmed milk chocolate ≥25% - ≥2.5% ≥25% ≤1% ≥14% -
White chocolate - ≥20% - - - ≥14% -
Chocolate a la taza ≥35% ≥18% ≥14% - - - ≤8%
Chocolate familiar a la taza ≥30% ≥18% ≥12% - - - ≤8%

1 Combined cocoa butter and milk fat.

There is an exception to one of these rules. 'Family milk chocolate' is allowed to be sold as simply 'milk chocolate' in the U.K. and Ireland, due to it being the predominant variety of milk chocolate available; however in other members of the union, where it is not, it must be relabelled accordingly[2][3].

United States

Different varieties of chocolate and their composition is defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Agency (FDA). It divides chocolate into four basic types; milk chocolate, sweet chocolate, white chocolate, and bittersweet/semisweet; although there are three uncommon subtypes of milk chocolate: buttermilk chocolate, skim milk chocolate, and mixed dairy product chocolate, which substitute different varieties of milk.[4]

The definitions of these are as follows[1][4]:

Product Chocolate liquor Milk solids Sugar Cocoa fat Milk fat
Milk chocolate ≥10% ≥12% - - -
Sweet chocolate ≥15% <12% - - -
Bitter/Semi-sweet chocolate ≥35% <12% - - -
White chocolate - ≥12% ≥55% ≥20% ≥3.5%

Buttermilk and skim milk chocolates have the same basic guidelines as milk, except substituting their respective varieties of milk. Additionally however, the finished product is expected to contain less than 3.39% milk fat total; this rule does not apply to mixed dairy product chocolates.[4]

Products sold as chocolate in the U.S. are not allowed to contain vegetable fat, artificial sweeteners, or milk substitutes. A loophole employed by manufacturers of products containing such ingredients is labelling them with terms such as 'chocolatey' or 'made with chocolate'.[1]


The Canadian definition of chocolate is given in division 4 of the Food and Drug Regulations, the food sections of which are monitored by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Their guidelines are as follows[1][5]:

Product Cocoa butter Milk solids Milk fat Fat free cocoa solids Cocoa solids
Milk chocolate ≥15% ≥12% ≥3.39% ≥2.5% ≥25%
Sweet chocolate ≥18% <12% - ≥12% ≥31%
(Dark/Bittersweet/Semisweet) chocolate ≥18% <12% - ≥12% ≥31%
White chocolate ≥20% ≤14% ≥3.5% - -

Additionally, like the U.S., Canada does not allow the use artificial sweeteners or substitutes for cocoa butter, nor is it allowed to contain flavouring preparations that "imitate the flavour of chocolate or milk"[1][5]. Emulsifiers must not exceed 1.5% of the total mass.[5]


In Japan, different varieties of chocolate are defined by how proportion of different 'chocolate materials' they contain. Said materials have their own definitions[1].

Material Cocoa content Cocoa butter Milk solids Milk fat Fats1 Sucrose Lecithin
Pure chocolate2 ≥35% ≥18% - - - ≥55% ≥0.5%
Pure milk chocolate2 ≥21% ≥18% ≥14% ≥3.5% - ≥55% ≥0.5%
Chocolate3 ≥35% ≥18% - - - - -
Milk chocolate ≥21% ≥18% ≥14% ≥3% - - -
Jun* chocolate ≥15% ≥3% - - ≥18% - -
Jun milk chocolate ≥7% ≥3% ≥12.5% ≥2% ≥18% - -

1 Combined total.

2 No additives allowed other than lecithin and vanilla flavouring, and no fats other than cocoa butter and milk.

3 It is permitted to substitute milk solids for cocoa content thusly:

Cocoa content Cocoa butter Combined milk solids and cocoa content Milk fats
≥21% ≥18% ≥35% ≥3%

This is distinct from the criteria for 'milk chocolate material' in that there is no set minimum for the milk solids that make up the ≥35% combined total.

All materials can have ≤3% water.

From here, the different end chocolate products are considered thusly:[1]

  • Chocolate: Contains ≥60% chocolate material.
  • Chocolate kashi**: Contains ≤60% chocolate material
  • Jun Chocolate: Contains ≥60% jun chocolate material.
  • Jun Chocolate kashi: Contains ≤60% jun chocolate material.

The same applies to milk chocolate products, and so:[#wiki]

  • Milk Chocolate: Contains ≥60% milk chocolate material.
  • Milk Chocolate kashi: Contains ≤60% milk chocolate material.
  • Jun Milk Chocolate: Contains ≥60% jun milk chocolate material.
  • Jun Milk Chocolate kashi: Contains ≤60% jun milk chocolate material.

*Jun: Quasi-, Demi-. **Kashi: Sweet, Candy.

Australia and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand share the same food standards, which define chocolate thusly:

chocolate means the confectionery product characterised by the presence of cocoa bean derivatives -

  • (a) prepared from a minimum of 200 g/kg of cocoa bean derivatives; and
  • (b) which contains no more than 50 g/kg of edible oils, other than cocoa butter or dairy fats.[6]

South Africa

The South African Department of Health defines 'chocolate confectionary' thusly:

Means any foodstuff which is ready for consumption without further preparation, of which chocolate, cocoa or non-fat cocoa solids are a characteristic ingredient and includes a foodstuff of which carbohydrate sweetening matter is a characteristic ingredient and which has a chocolate coating, but does not include any flour confectionery or edible ice.[7]

Hong Kong

Hong Kong has no definition as to what constitutes chocolate in law, however the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department does have regulations as to the preservatives that can be used therein.

Both chocolate products and imitation chocolate products are allowed to use propyl gallate as a preservative to a degree of 200 ppm. This is the only artificial preservative allowed in the former, although imitation chocolate products are allowed to use benzoic acid to a degree of 1500 ppm.[8]

There are also more general rules about permitted artificial additives and sweeteners that are not chocolate specific.