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Dark Chocolate's Dark Secret: Heavy Metals and Your Health
Posted 2 months ago
Updated 2 months ago
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Dark chocolate, a chocoholic's dream, has been touted for its health benefits thanks to its rich antioxidant content. But recent news has cast a shadow on this indulgence, raising concerns about lead and cadmium lurking within those delicious squares.

The Culprits: Lead and Cadmium

  • Cadmium: This sneaky metal accumulates in the body over time, damaging the kidneys and bones (osteoporosis). Chronic exposure has been associated with an increased risk of cancer.

  • Lead: Notorious for its neurotoxicity, lead exposure can disrupt brain development in children, leading to learning disabilities, decreased IQ, behavioral problems, and even stunted growth. For adults, it can also lead to nervous system problems, hypertension (high blood pressue), immune system suppression, kidney damage, heart disease, reproductive issues, and cognitive decline.

Brands in the Spotlight

Independent testing by groups like As You Sow and Consumer Reports revealed concerning levels of lead and cadmium in popular chocolate brands, including:

  • Hershey's: 
    • Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate (265% lead)
  • Trader Joe's: 
    • Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao (192% of California's maximum allowable lead level)
    • The Dark Chocolate Lover's Chocolate 85% Cacao (127% lead, 229% cadmium)
  • Lily's: 
    • Extra Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa (144% lead)
    • Extreme Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa (143% lead, 101% cadmium)
  • Lindt
  • Godiva
  • Dove
  • Chocolove
  • Theo Chocolate Organic Pure Dark/Extra Dark (70% and 85% cocoa, respectively)
  • Green & Black's Organic Dark Chocolate (70% cocoa)

However, it's important to note that not all dark chocolate is created equal. Several brands have been commended for their lower levels of heavy metals, including:

  • Mast Organic Dark Chocolate 80% Cocoa
  • Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate Twilight Delight 72% Cacao
  • Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate 86% Cacao
  • Taza Chocolate Organic Deliciously Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao
  • Valrhona Abinao Dark Chocolate 85% Cacao
  • Villakuyaya Organic Dark Chocolate Single Origin (100% cocoa)

Choosing the "Cleaner" Chocolate

Unfortunately, there's no single "safe" brand list, as levels can vary within brands depending on factors like cocoa source. However, some reports suggest brands that prioritize sustainable sourcing, like Theo Chocolate and Taza Chocolate, may have lower levels.

Lawsuite allege 'deceptive' advertising

Two major chocolate companies, Trader Joe's and Hershey's, are facing lawsuits alleging they misled consumers by not revealing the presence of lead and cadmium in some dark chocolate products. The lawsuits follow a December 2022 report by Consumer Reports that found high levels of these heavy metals in some dark chocolate bars.

The lawsuits claim that the companies' marketing and labelling practices are deceptive because they don't disclose the lead and cadmium content. This is a concern because even small amounts of these heavy metals can pose serious health risks.

How much lead and cadmium were found in the chocolate?

To determine the potential health risks, Consumer Reports used California's maximum allowable dose levels for lead (0.5 micrograms) and cadmium (4.1 micrograms) as a benchmark. They then calculated the percentage of this maximum allowable dose found in a single ounce of each chocolate bar.

The results were concerning. Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao contained a whopping 192% of the allowable lead limit. Even more alarming, their Dark Chocolate Lover's Chocolate 85% Cacao exceeded both limits, clocking in at 127% of the allowable lead and a staggering 229% of the allowable cadmium.

The report wasn't limited to Trader Joe's products. Consumer Reports also identified Hershey's Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate as having a lead level 265% higher than California's limit. Lily's dark chocolate products also raised concerns. Their Extra Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa had 144% of the allowable lead, while their Extreme Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa exceeded both limits with 143% lead and 101% cadmium.

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