Urban Myth: A story, generally untrue but sometimes one that is merely exaggerated or sensationalized, that gains the status of folklore by continual retelling.
Example: ALL chocolate contains insect and rodent parts and rodent hair.
In the latest issue of Healing our World (Volume 30, Issue 3), John Kohler wrote "All chocolate is notorious for containing foreign matter such as rodent [hair] and insect parts." Repetition of this myth by speakers and writers such as Paul Nison has created a belief that this is fact.
So where did this "fact" originate? An analysis of a procedure that the FDA performs to regulate chocolatiers, discusses the maximum allowable contamination: "CPG Sec. 515.700 Chocolate & Chocolate Liquor - Adulteration with Insect and Rodent Filth". This document does not state that all chocolate contains such contamination—it is a guideline for maximum allowable amounts and regulation of such. Furthermore, similar limits are in place for virtually all other foods governed by the FDA.
Therefore, it is only an ASSUMPTION that such filth is present in all chocolate (as Nison and Kohler are asserting.)
The guidelines for allowable limits for chocolate are designed for mass producers dealing with tons of beans in huge silos, warehouses and factories where rodent and insect contamination of the facility may be an issue, not the small artisanal chocolate maker.
Sacred Chocolate has done further analysis based on its own manufacturing procedures and methods and the guidelines stipulated by the FDA:
This defined FDA test is what is used to test any given chocolate sample. Interestingly, what it doesn’t define is the SIZE of the insect fragment. In most cases these will be fragments on the order of about 10 to 20 microns in size since the average chocolate particle is of that size, and any insect that may inadvertently end up in a chocolate making machine will end up reduced to particles of the same size and evenly distributed through the entire batch of chocolate. The FDA allows up to 90 insect particles in any given 100 gram chocolate sample. A quantity of 90 insect particles each with a size of 20 microns in any given dimension is actually a stringent requirement in a 100 gram sample. For example, assuming the density of semi-sweet chocolate is 1,325 kg/m^3, the volume of a 100 gram chocolate bar would be calculated as 100 / 1000 / 1,325 = 1 / 13,250 m^3 (cubic meters), which is the same as 7.547 x 10^13 microns^3 (cubic microns). So assuming that an insect particle is 20 x 20 x 20 microns^3 (cubic microns), and that there are 90 of them in the 100 gram bar, that would mean an insect volume-based particle concentration of 720,000 / 7.547 x 10^13 = 1 part insect per 104,819,444 parts chocolate. This is a very low allowable concentration! The rodent hair test is 1 or more rodent hairs or rodent hair particles. Based on the typical size of a rodent hair, we would estimate that this is even more stringent than the insect test!
Futhermore, in the "Defect Levels Handbook" there are interesting facts that will contribute to busting the urban myth that all chocolate is notoriously contaminated: If we look at such common foods as herbs and spices in this document we see an FDA allowance of contamination that exceeds that of chocolate.
Of course even when we are growing our own fresh food and sanitizing everything it is impossible to clean bacterial and insect contamination. Fresh organic produce is renowned for having live and dead insects on it, which is a good sign that it is free of pesticides. We see and wash them off. Good chocolatiers will do the same especially the entrepreneur of a smaller operation.
Bacterial contamination can also be a concern. David Wolfe has shown that low quality cacao beans do have bacterial contamination. Some beans are just thrown on the forest floor in banana leaves and fermented for extended periods of time with unregulated temperatures; others are prepared in covered boxes in very controlled conditions. You can quickly tell the quality of your beans by placing them in a solution of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide, contaminated beans will foam, high quality beans will not.
The truth then depends on quality control and high standards. In artisan facilities such as Sacred Chocolate there are strict controls to avoid contamination and keep purity and integrity in the final product. Sacred Chocolate sources the cacao beans and butter from first-rate suppliers who are stringent with their quality controls creating the world’s greatest chocolate bars.
Here is what Sacred Steve of Sacred Chocolate has to say:
"We buy strictly from reputable sources and we manually inspect all ingredients. In the 5 years that I have been a bean to bar microbatch chocolate maker, I have never seen insects or rodent hair in our cacao beans, butter, or nibs"
It is easy to repeat information found on the web and to generalize without digging to see where the “fact” originated. It takes time to be conscious of this myth-making process, and it is time to take responsibility to take the research we find on the web to its true source. The generalization of information we find online can be unconscious and misinforming, and it takes our energy away from the truth.
Sit down with a piece of Sacred Chocolate and a good book, relax and enjoy. Sacred Chocolate provides the world’s highest quality stone ground chocolate produced in a pristine facility exceeding all food processing standards.