Over the last 4 days, I have received a specific video on Whats app more than 200 times in different groups and from several people who know my involvement in chocolates. Most people in shock ask, “Is this true?!?!?!” To me this episode is a masterclass in making viral social media videos. Let’s see how. The ingredients of the video are: Choose the right content (chocolate in this case), instill fear among viewers and ensure it is relevant across age groups, gender, religion, profession, geography, culture and beliefs. In short, talk about chocolate and make it whats app sharable.
A seemingly educated lady starts a video addressing a rather unassuming & perhaps imaginary audience on an assuring note saying that Junk food is to be avoided etc etc. This ensures that the audiance starts getting in the comfort zone. Then 1 minute into the video, the topic of chocolate is easily introduced! Claiming that maida, sugar and cockroaches are used in chocolate and giving examples of how the mighty authoritative FDA allows 6 gms of insect parts in chocolate, she further states that cockroaches are attracted to the smell of fermentation and chocolate makers cant help it or contain it. Hence they have written to the authorities and got permission to process chocolate with these insects.
Recently food bloggers have come under the scanner a lot for not verifying what they publish. But there are easily sharable videos doing the rounds on what’s app (embedded as a youtube link to this post) and the people who make these videos go scot free and in fact cause more damage than good because they are aimlessly forwarded without verification of any facts. They create panic and cause fear among the audiances. I have had several people saying that they have thrown away the chocolate they had in stock after having seen this video! The lady implies that, because, FDA allows 4% cockroach parts in chocolate, the chocolate makers would add that amount of animal products into chocolate! Of course, please be rest assured that neither FDA says it the same way it has been interpreted nor does any chocolate maker resorts to adding animal parts to chocolate. To make matters worse, when people receive such messages and do a quick google search with keywords like cockroaches in chocolate, a lot of unknown websites show up some dated articles regarding the same. If they happen to do a search on youtube you would see some videos in telegu language stating the same things and also mentioning reputed brand names! Ofcourse the narrators face is not shown in those videos. This specific video (attached to this post) is a rip-off from another video that appeared in Telugu language on whats app a few months ago. A lady there also narrates her thoughts in a similar manner with the aim of creating panic. These are attention seeking social media tactics. No phone number, email address or any contact detail has been provided. She is now, very easily a social media (what’s app included) sensation within a few days! I am sure celebrities can also not imagine to go this viral so easily.
There is a concept of allowed ingredient in each product category in India based on FSSAI. Heres what FSSAI’s definition is of chocolate (this is derived from their draft Draft_Notice_Comments_Labelling_Display_11_04_2018.pdf). Ofcourse I am not able to read cockroaches as an allowed ingredient in chocolate in the definition below:
Chocolate means a homogeneous product obtained by an adequate process of manufacture from a mixture of one or more of the ingredients, namely, cocoa materials including cocoa beans, cocoa nib, cocoa mass (cocoa liquor/cocoa paste), cocoa press cake and cocoa powder (cocoa fines or cocoa dust), including fat reduced cocoa powder with or without addition of sugars, cocoa butter, milk solids including milk fat. The addition of vegetable fats other than cocoa butter shall not exceed 5 per cent of the finished product, after deduction of the total weight of any other added edible foodstuffs, without reducing the minimum contents of cocoa materials
In addition to the aforementioned ingredients, the chocolate may contain one or more of the substances given below, namely:-
I. edible salts;
II. spices and condiments and their extracts;
III. vitamins and minerals;
IV. permitted emulsifying and stabilising agents;
V. permitted sequestering and buffering agents.
Also, do you read the word seizure in the text of the FDA document (at the image at the start of this post?) It is very important to read this in context of the overall law. This is a provision and the guidelines that the FDA has given when the food authority has to seize the products that are produced above this limit. Where does it say that it is allowed that any chocolate maker in the world can actually put cockroach in the chocolate? Is Cockroach in the allowed ingredient list in chocolate? The answer is a safe NO. If you read one paragraph on a single page out of the law that is hundred pages long, it amounts to half baked knowledge and also ignorance apart from supporting a wrong cause. You should be through in your research. Never assume that food laws are so simply stupid.
I say this to every student in my class that any news about chocolate (even if it is unverified content like what this video explains), will always get attention. That’s a reality of chocolate. For all of us fermenting our own cocoa beans and making chocolate from bean to bar, this is simply an insult of the highest order. This lady has perhaps not seen what is carried out when we work with cocoa at the farm or a chocolate making unit. She would have scared several thousand people already and many people will find it difficult to even think of chocolates now. I wonder what or who motivated her. Unfortunately large companies like Cadburys and Nestle have a lot to loose due to this publicity since they are the most easily accessable to Indian consumers. We can be rest assured no animal parts are added in any chocolate in any part of the world. – L Nitin Chordia, India’s 1st certified chocolate taster and also a Cocoa post harvest professional. Contactable at: email@example.com