Cacao Shell as 19th Century Chocolate Adulteration

Five years ago this month, the Chocolate History Group assembled by the University of California, Davis, and Mars, Inc., released Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage, a wide-ranging, nearly thousand-page collection of articles on chocolate history.  Laura Pallas Brindle and Bradley Foliart Olson contributed an article on “Adulteration: The Dark World of ‘Dirty’ Chocolate,” documenting and categorizing (by type and function) common adulterants added to chocolate in the 19th and early 20th century.

Included in their table of “Vegetal Adulterants” are cacao shells, commonly used as a way of bulking up inferior grades of chocolate for sale at lower prices.  They cite an 1845 article in The American Journal of Pharmacy by A. Chevallier who describes and decries Parisian adulterations of food and drink as “frauds which may, in a great number of cases, injure the health of those who use them, but which in all cases have for their object the substitution of a cheaper for a more expensive product.” 

In a footnote to his entry on adulteration of chocolate with cacao shells, Chevallier quotes the following explanation of a manufacturer “from whom a sample of chocolate of inferior quality was taken”:

"I do not think that a worse quality of chocolate could be manufactured.  This manufacture is disgraceful to commerce, and I make it only in my own defense and to sustain competition.  I have but one regret, which is that the Government has not the power to oppose this pitiful manufacture, which consists simply of making chocolate with the last residues of cocoa."