Chocolate Companies Pressed to Remove Toxic Metals

A study claims to have discovered high levels of heavy metals in many chocolate bars.

If you’re of the opinion that nothing in the world is better than chocolate, you’re not alone. But chocolate producers are facing backlash after a recent study uncovered some alarming concerns over the contents of America’s most preferred candy.

Consumer Reports has issued open letters to several major confectionary brands, urging them to make changes to certain dark chocolate products.

In December, the organization published the results of a study where it claims to have discovered high levels of heavy metals in many dark chocolate bars it tested.

Consumer Reports notes that while there are no federal standards on the level of cadmium or lead that these chocolate bars can contain, the state of California has established a “maximum allowable dose level for lead and cadmium which was used when assessing these chocolate bars and whether they contained a safe level of the metals.”

Consumer Report tested 28 brands and, of them, only five contained less than California’s maximum allowable dose, per ounce, of cadmium and lead. Some, including those produced by major brands like Hershey, Godiva and Trader Joe’s, far exceeded the levels in either metal, or even both simultaneously. 

Following the study, Consumer Reports penned letters to Hershey, Trader Joe’s, Modelez and Theo, urging the companies to commit to addressing the metals problem before Valentine’s Day of this year. The organization points to data that suggests that “consistent, long-term exposure to even small amounts can lead to a variety of health problems, including nervous system issues, immunosuppression and kidney damage. 

“The danger is even greater for young children and pregnant people, as the metals can cause developmental problems,” they say in the letters, which also include a 50,000 signature petition from consumers asking for the companies to publicly commit to reducing the metals.

Consumer Reports contends that cadmium tends to reach cacao beans in the soil, while lead does so during the drying process – meaning producers would need to approach solutions from various angles. They say that addressing this would mean changes to both harvesting and manufacturing practices.

Reuters reports that, while none of the chocolate companies responded publicly, The National Confectioners Association, a trade group, did weigh in, calling the California guidelines that Consumer Reports used "the most protective available," though "not food safety standards." They say the chocolate remains safe to eat.

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