Study Finds That Dark Chocolate Has High Levels Of Heavy Metals


Dark chocolate has long been touted for its incredible health benefits, but a new study from Consumer Reports has found that it may actually contain many harmful amounts of heavy metals, which means it’s not as healthy as people actually think.

The researchers from Consumer Reports took 28 dark chocolate bars, some of which were made by well-known and popular chocolate brands like Dove, Hershey’s, Ghirardelli, and Trader Joe’s, as well as other less known brands such as Alter Eco and Mast, and found that there were large amounts of some heavy metals.

What they found was that every single chocolate bar that they checked had cadmium and lead. Moreover, 23 of the bars also had a large enough amount of these heavy metals that by eating a single ounce of the chocolate every day could possibly expose an adult to ‘potentially harmful levels of at least one of these two toxic metals.’ Moreover, five bars of these chocolates had possible dangerous levels of both the heavy medals, cadmium and lead.

However, according to food safety researcher Tunde Akinleye of Consumer Reports, who led the research testing project, shared that since five of the tested dark chocolate bars had ‘low levels of these metals’ also means that there are safe options available on the market.

Akinleye went on to say, “That shows it’s possible for companies to make products with lower amounts of heavy metals — and for consumers to find safer products that they enjoy.”

Scientists also tested dark chocolate bars in California, where the environmental and safety regulations are often stricter than that of the U.S. Federal government, in order to see how many of them had over the maximum dose levels of heavy metals. Notably, California’s maximum allowable doses are ‘0.5 micrograms for lead and 4.1 micrograms for cadmium.’

They Found Multiple Brands of Dark Chocolate Had High Levels of Cadmium and Lead

There were five products that exceeded California state’s maximum allowable dose for both heavy metals, cadmium and lead. These were ‘Theo organic pure dark 70 percent cacao, Theo organic pure dark chocolate 85 percent cacao, Trader Joe’s dark chocolate 85 percent cacao, Lily’s extremely dark chocolate 85 percent cacao, and Green & Black’s organic dark chocolate 70 percent cacao.’

As for the five products that had levels below CA’s maximum allowable doses for both heavy metals lead and cadmium were the following: ‘Mast organic dark chocolate 80 percent cacao, Taza Chocolate organic deliciously dark chocolate 70 percent cacao, Ghirardelli intense dark chocolate 72 percent cacao, and Valrhona Abinao dark chocolate 85 percent cacao.’

According to the National Confectioners Association, a spokesperson explained that all the tested dark chocolate bars by Consumer Reports had cadmium and lead levels that were below doses established by a 2018 California court settlement. Per the settlement, if those limits are exceeded, the chocolate is supposed to have a warning label on it.

In an emailed statement, the association wrote, “The products cited in this study are in compliance with strict quality and safety requirements, and the levels provided to us by Consumer Reports testing are well under the limits established by our settlement. Food safety and product quality remain our highest priorities and we remain dedicated to being transparent and socially responsible.”

So How Exactly Do Cadmium and Lead Get Into the Chocolate?

Cadmium happens to be a natural mineral in the earth’s crust that’s used in various everyday items, such as cigarettes, metal coatings, batteries, and plastics. Often, people are exposed to cadmium through a number of foods they eat as well as in the air they breathe due to contamination. When cadmium is ingested, it can induce vomiting, diarrhea and when inhaled, can even cause kidney damage, bones to become more fragile, as well as particular cancers.

Meanwhile, lead is another element found in the earth’s crust. Commonly used in many products in earlier decades, It has since been banned from paints and gasoline in the United States, although is still often used in many metal mixtures and industrial products, like car radiators, glass, ammunition, older pipes, even glass and pottery. People can be exposed through contaminated air, consuming food and drinks with lead, even dirt and dust. More often than not, young children are more at risk, and their health can suffer from cognitive and developmental problems from too much exposure.

According to the Consumers Reports investigation, there are a number of ways that lead and cadmium can end up in chocolate. One way is because cadmium is in the soil where cacao beans grow, which means that it grows into the plant while the plant itself matures. Another is through the lead-filled dust that covers the cacao beans once they’ve been picked and left to dry in the sun.

Dark Chocolate Is Still Okay To Consume in Moderation, But With Warnings

Despite these findings, registered dietician and author of The Family Immunity Cookbook, Toby Amidor, explains that although it’s important to understand and be aware of possible lead or cadmium in dark chocolate, it doesn’t mean you can no longer eat it but it should be consumed in moderation.

Amidor explains, “There are dark chocolate options that you can choose that have lower levels of the metal.”

He also explains that one ounce of dark chocolate shouldn’t be harmful when consumed every once in a while, especially since there are heart-healthy flavanols and antioxidants in dark chocolate, which a number of studies have proven links to lowered risk of diabetes and heart disease.

As per Consumer Reports, here are some tips to help lower any health risks that may come with chocolate and toxic metals.

  1. Choose dark chocolate with lower cacao percentages – instead of choosing 80 percent ones, opt for 70 percent cacao since cadmium levels increase as cacao increases.
  2. Don’t give dark chocolate to younger kids – consuming heavy metals is worse for younger children than adults, which is why you shouldn’t give kids dark chocolate.
  3. Organic isn’t always better or safer – it’s important to remember organic doesn’t always mean that it’s better or safer. The testing found that organic had risks just as high as the other types of dark chocolate.
  4. Only eat it occasionally – a single ounce of dark chocolate that has higher levels of cadmium and lead shouldn’t cause immediate harm.
  5. Follow a balanced diet – while flavanols and antioxidants are found in dark chocolate, they can also be found in a number of other foods like grapes, apples, and green tea. Moreover, heavy metals can be found in many other foods, like spinach, carrots and sweet potatoes. By consuming a health, well-balanced diet, you can ensure that you’ll get the necessary nutrients you need to help minimize any adverse side effects that could come with consuming heavy metals.

Akinleye shares, “Having a serving a few days a week, especially with a product that has lower levels, means you can eat dark chocolate without worrying unduly.”