Would you bite into chocolate that looks like this? Should you?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock

You're about to get your mid-afternoon chocolate buzz on, when you see it -- a white, powdery or streaky substance on the surface of your afternoon delight. What is this stuff? Did the store sell you nasty chocolate or did your supersaver sweetie hit the clearance rack when picking up a treat for you? And, most importantly, is it OK to eat?

Chocolate bloom is a scourge of the chocolate maker (those who process the cacao bean into chocolate) and chocolatiers (those who use the finished product to make candy or confectionaries) alike. It's actually pretty complex, starting with the fact that there are two different kinds: sugar bloom and fat bloom. Sugar bloom is usually a dry, spotted coating, while fat bloom tends to be streaky and greasier. It can be hard to tell by looking, as the difference is really due to chemical changes.

If you've never encountered chocolate bloom, you might be freaked out when you first see it. Rest assured, bloomed chocolate is perfectly safe to eat -- it hasn't gone bad and it's not old at all. It might be less than appetizing though; bloom can not only change the chocolate's appearance but also its texture. Some people claim they can't tell a difference, but others won't touch the stuff.

Sadly, there's no way to fix bloomed chocolate unless you want to melt it down. While we can't help you decide whether to eat your chocolate or not, we can help you keep it from happening in the future -- maybe.