As You Sow, a California-based health watchdog group, has just warned that some of our favorite chocolate treats contain unsafe levels of heavy metals, including lead and cadmium. Results are below.
According to the group, chronic exposure to cadmium is known to cause kidney, liver, and bone damage, and some of the top brands in the U.S. contain far too much of it – up to 7 times as much as the daily limit allowed in California.
As You Sow states in its updated survey that some chocolates contain 9 times the daily amount of lead the state considers safe to avoid reproductive harm. Lead exposure can also reduce IQ and cause neurological damage. There is no safe level of lead for children.
Fifty different cocoa samples were obtained by the group and analyzed by an independent lab.
More than half contained lead and cadmium levels exceeding California’s limits, which are more stringent than federal guidelines.
As You Sow CEO Andrew Behar said they had been putting too much faith in chocolate producers:
“We assumed that companies were testing their products before they put them on the market, but they’re not.”
As You Sow won’t disclose the exact amounts of heavy metals they found in the samples, as it hopes to work directly with manufacturers to pinpoint the sources of the cadmium and lead.
Danielle Fugere, president of As You Sow, told CNN:
“Our goal is to work with chocolate manufacturers to find ways to avoid these metals in their products.”
The brands of chocolate using the cocoa found to contain high levels of heavy metals weren’t obscure names unfamiliar to coca lovers. Many of them were brands sold in nearly every grocery store in the U.S., including Hershey’s, Chocolove, Earth Circle Foods, Lake Champlain Chocolates, Theo Chocolate, Sees Candies, Dove, Trader Joe’s, Lindt, Ghirardelli, Cadbury, Godiva, Mars, and Whole Foods.
Lead was found in 17 of the tested chocolates, including Cadbury’s Royal Dark Mini Eggs and Royal Dark Chocolate Bar, Godiva’s 72% and 50% cacao dark chocolate, and Hershey’s Special Dark.
Cadmium was found in 7 of the chocolates, including Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark Twilight Delight and Dove’s Dark Chocolate.
The shocking findings didn’t seem to rattle most of the chocolatiers, according to As You Sow. Upon approaching the companies with the numbers, just 2 of the manufacturers asked to work with the group to solve the issue. The other companies disputed the findings, and said their products are safe to eat and the heavy metals come from naturally occurring sources.
Here are responses from some manufacturers after CNN reached out:
- “Chocolove: ‘The types and amounts of elements in a food product can come from soil and the natural growing of the plant or from food processing. There is a significant distinction between natural occurring components of the soil and the plant being in food, versus contamination added by incorrect food contact surfaces adding elements to the food.’
- Earth Circle Foods: ‘We’re involved in discussions with As You Sow, we dispute these claims. We have a testing program in place and we believe that this product is safe.’
- Hershey Company: ‘People have been eating cocoa and chocolate safely for centuries. Consumers can rest assured that our products are safe, and that our industry adheres to all government regulations.’
- Lake Champlain Chocolates: ‘Per Proposition 65, the labeling requirement does NOT apply to low levels of substances found in foods that are naturally occurring. …There is no process at our factory that contributes to lead or cadmium levels in chocolate.’
- Theo Chocolate: ‘We are evaluating the issues raised by this claim. … We are fully confident in both the quality and safety of Theo Chocolate products … we take robust measures to ensure the safety of our products.’
- See’s Candies: ‘See’s regularly evaluates its products to assure compliance with all state and federal guidelines.’”
The National Confectioners Association (NCA) said:
“Some minerals – like cadmium and lead – are found naturally in many foods, including seafood, peanuts, potatoes, grains, leafy vegetables and – sometimes – cocoa beans. Cocoa-based foods are consumed in small amounts and are not a major source of these minerals in the diet.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also chimed in, saying:
“People have been eating cocoa and chocolate for centuries with no evidence of a single incident of concern regarding these naturally occurring minerals.”
However, an independent 2005 study found chocolate contained some of the highest concentrations of lead in food. And despite the NCA’s claim that chocolate is consumed in small amounts, As You Sow says the average American consumes about 9.5 pounds of it each year.