| A chocolate lollipop figure of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. (Reuters)
Brussels, Jan. 17: British manufacturers won the final battle of the 30-year “chocolate war” yesterday, securing the legal right to sell their creamy products throughout the EU.
The European Court of Justice ruled that Italy and Spain violated trade laws by banning Britain’s most popular confections unless they were sold under the off-putting name of “chocolate substitutes”.
The judgment means that Mars, Kit Kat and Cadbury’s Flakes must be sold on the same shelf as Ferrero-Rocher in Italian and Spanish supermarkets, instead of being relegated to the substitute counter.
The court said chocolates from Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia should have free access to the single market provided they contained less than five per cent vegetable fat.
Most EU states have strict rules insisting that chocolate is made from a base of 100 per cent cocoa butter. The judges said the label of chocolate substitute was “pejorative” and “may adversely affect how customers perceive those products”.
It imposed extra labelling costs on the producers, and breached Article 30, which safeguards the free movement of goods in the single market.
But victory, sweet though it may be, comes too late to make much difference to chocolate manufacturers in Yorkshire and the Midlands.
They have been battling ever since Britain joined the European community in 1973 to overcome the resistance of Europe’s chocolate snobs.