The Council of Ministers adopted a common position on amending the basic Directive 73/241/EEC on the approximation of Member States' laws on cocoa and chocolate products intended for human consumption. The common position was adopted by a qualified majority. Belgium and the Netherlands voted against, whilst Luxembourg abstained. The common position offers the opportunity for chocolate producers to use up to 5% vegetable fats other than cocoa butter. During a first reading in October 1997, MEPs agreed to this proposal, subject to stringent requirements: providing information to consumers and the tropical origin of these fats. Most MEPs have since changed their minds. The Parliament is entitled to amend the common position but solely if a qualified majority (314 to 626 votes) of MEPs agree during the second-reading vote, which is due to take place during the March 13 to 17 plenary session in Strasbourg.The Parliamentary debate due to resume within the Committee on the Environment, on January 25, on the basis of a report by Paul Lannoye (Greens, Belgium) has been postponed until February 1.According to experts, the use of other vegetable fats will mainly benefit the countries of South-East Asia. The chocolate industry was generally in favour of the change on the grounds that other vegetable fats would be easier to use. However, those...

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