If you love chocolate you have probably enjoyed all different varieties of it, open to finding just the right flavor, consistency and texture as well as the richness you prefer. Even if you choose fine, expensive chocolate, you have, no doubt – at one time or another – settled for a ‘lesser quality’ brand just to get your chocolate fix, or simply because it was all that was available. What is the difference between high quality and low quality chocolate? And does your chocolate have wax in it?
The truth is, most chocolate that you find in the grocery store is not pure chocolate in the natural sense. In order to qualify chocolate as chocolate, it must contain the cacao butter (cocoa butter), the oil of the chocolate plant. For this reason, much of what we buy labeled ‘chocolate’ has only the cocoa powder at best – and would more correctly be named ‘chocolate flavored.’ Many low end, inexpensive chocolate bars contain other oils as ‘fillers’ such as palm oil or canola oil and often times paraffin wax to make the chocolate sheen and increase the shelf life. Many times there is just a bit of cacao butter, wax and palm oil – making up the ‘oil’ content of the chocolate.
Yes, paraffin wax is a common chocolate and candy additive to inexpensive chocolates because it does not require the chocolate to be properly tempered. Tempering is a tricky ‘trade-secret’ which produces shine and shelf-stability without the use of additives due to the properties of cacao butter. More expensive chocolate, and what contributes to both its cost and flavor is the simple ingredient list of pure cacao butter, cacao powder and a sweetener. Often times lecithin is added to assist in setting up the chocolate, but very fine chocolate made by brilliant chocolatiers, need no such additives. Lecithin is also an allergen to many people, usually derived from soy.
Some may argue that when reading the list of ingredients on say, a Hershey or Nestle bar, there is no mention of paraffin wax, though when calling them to ask for their list of ingredients, they would give no such answer, calling it a ‘trade secret.’ Instead the conversation with Hershey’s went something like this:
I called this morning and gave the representative my case number and she read back my request: What are the ingredients in the Krackel bar. The ingredients list on the Miniatures bag lists them all together and I want to know just what’s in that bar.
She asked me why I want to know. I stammered that I wanted to know what I’m eating. She asked if it was an allergy issue. I replied that I wanted to know what was in that bar. If I ate only that bar, what would I be eating? (The package does say “something for everyone” so Hershey’s understands that sometimes people just pick through and eat only one variety.)
She said she did not have that information. It doesn’t exist in her records. If she wanted she could escalate me to a supervisor, but they had only the same info that she does. Surely someone must know? Ultimately, the company decided that the recipe for the bars could not be shared.
Paraffin wax is an approved additive by the FDA even though it is a petroleum product ‘obtained from petroleum by dewaxing light lubricating oil stocks.‘ How does this sentence sound to you ‘Food-grade paraffin wax derived from petroleum.’ ?? Something is sounds seriously off, no?
Candy makers will tell you that adding paraffin wax is a common occurrence for both chocolate and candy making. Taken from a candy-making website:
Yes, it is edible. Paraffin wax is often added to chocolates. The addition of paraffin to the chocolate or candy gives it a nice, glossy finish and helps it remain solid at room temperature. Be aware that paraffin is flammable when overheated, so warm it gently in a double-boiler or microwave only to the point where it is melted.
Why is this wax not included on ingredient lists? Well, unfortunately wax can fall into the category of ‘other flavors’ and may also slip off the label due to not actually being ‘food.’ If you want to ensure your chocolate is wax-free, choose more expensive chocolates with pure sources, single origins and those found in the ‘natural health’ section. You can even find pure chocolate today which needs no sweetener – the chocolate is so finely sourced and processed.
If you want to ensure the highest quality chocolate, you may want to look for ‘raw’ chocolate. Usually raw chocolate makers use alternative sweeteners, thus rendering the chocolate more amazing for your body and mind. Raw chocolate contains all the beneficial properties of the Theobroma de Cacao plant – literally translated as ‘food of the gods.’ I’ve never heard of any raw chocolatiers using wax in their products, in fact, I am certain it would be abhorred by the raw-food community.
Does your chocolate contain wax? There is only one way to be certain – choose fine chocolate. Once you start consuming high quality chocolate, you will find that you develop a taste for the ingredients present, as fine quality chocolate touches over 1000 taste buds (verses 100-300 in most foods). When this happens, I guarantee you will be able to taste whether wax is present or not. Here’s to fine quality chocolate. Enjoy.
Written by: Stasia Bliss