"Pure chocolate? No way!" the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg told Italy Thursday.
It was ruling on an Italian law that recognizes some delicacies as "pure chocolate."
The court said if a product is made from 100 percent cocoa butter, that fact must be listed on the ingredients table only. It also said the European Union's 1999 chocolate labeling rules make no room for a "pure chocolate" reference like the one Italy enacted in a 2003 law. It runs "contrary to the system of denominations for products sold under Union law," the court said.
Once vegetable fats are included in the production of chocolate a popular practice in some EU nations, notably Britain then the label must say, "contains vegetable fats in addition to cocoa butter," the court said.
Allowing an extra sales name for chocolate that contains no vegetable fat "is likely to mislead consumers and thus interfere with their right to obtain correct, neutral and objective information," the court decreed.
The EU labeling rules took effect in 1999 after a lively debate pitting countries like Britain where chocolate usually contains a substitute vegetable fats against purists like Belgium, Italy and others, where traditionalist chocolate makers use only cocoa butter.
The new rules were aimed at enabling companies to sell common products across the region, whereas under the old rules, countries such as Italy were allowed to block imports of chocolate made with alternative fats.
Italy won't fall in line with the efforts to fully harmonize the sales names of cocoa and chocolate products and thus guarantee the single nature of the region, as the court put it.
The European Commission, the 27- nation EU's executive agency, had sued Italy in 2008 on the issue.
The country now faces a heavy fine, and the ruling could set Italy and the EU on a collision course.
A spokesman for the European Commission, which polices the single market, acknowledged there are "different cultures" within the EU on a question that had long been "delicate," but reiterated that Rome must comply.
The EU summarised the law on its website specifying that chocolate "may contain up to five percent vegetable fat other than cocoa butter," such as illepe, palm oil, sal, shea, kokum gurgi, mango kernels or copra oil.