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Houston Department of Health and Human Services > Food Inspection and Safety (Consumer Health) > Food Safety Tips > Chocolate, Sweets and Food Safety

Chocolate, Sweets and Food Safety

Americans have a love affair with chocolate – the sweet, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth confection and other sweet desserts. Why not discuss the sweet little secrets.

Valentine’s day ranks fourth in total sales of the succulent sweets in this country. Qandi, from qand in Arabic, means a lump of sugar. Americans called it sugar candy in the 1800’s and now it it’s just candy. Although some may be reluctant to concede the fact, candy is a food item according to the definition in most food-safety ordinances. Its basic elements are included in the "Food Pyramid" in the small triangle at the top labeled "Fats, Oils and Sweets."

Although chocolate is not usually associated with foodborne illness, the white, chalky coating found on some candies can cause consumers to worry needlessly. Chocolate contains cocoa butter and sugar, therefore heat and humidity may cause it to develop a harmless "bloom." It may look strange but the chocolate is safe to eat. Carelessness in quality control and sanitation might result in contamination with microorganisms that could cause illness. Responsible manufacturers keep constant vigilance at important points in production to avoid major problems. The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) backs up the manufacturer’s responsibilities with plant inspections and routine samples. FDA also looks closely at all imported food, including candy to ensure that no improper agents are added to the candy.

When chocolate is used in dishes that contain cream and eggs, such as truffles, cheesecakes and pies, there are some concerns. You must cook these foods to at least 160°F to kill harmful bacteria. Check the internal temperature with a food thermometer to be certain. Do not eat any foods that contain raw eggs. Wash hands properly and frequently during food preparation. Refrigerate foods properly – within two to four hours – of cooking or serving.

Some facts about the nutritional value of chocolates:

  • A 1.5 ounce of chocolate bar contains about the same amount of total phenolic compounds as a 5-ounce serving of red wine, which has been associated with a reduced risk for coronary heart disease.
  • Caffeine in a 1.5 ounce of chocolate bar or an 8-ounce glass of chocolate milk is about equivalent of that cup of decaffeinated coffee.
  • Current studies are being evaluated to find the amount and types of antioxidants in chocolate products.
  • There is no such thing as a "white chocolate" in the US. White chocolates contain only the fat - cocoa butter and not the color forming nonfat components. It is actually white confectionery.

Whether antioxidant benefits, neurotransmitter responses (causing you those chocolate cravings) or your mother’s favorite myth, the real reason we eat chocolates and other sweets may not be so complex. We eat chocolate because it tastes good.

For this or any food-safety-related information, contact the Bureau of Consumer Health Services at 713/794-9200 or click here to return to the food safety tips index page.

Contact the HDHHS Bureau of Consumer Health Services