Popular Dark Chocolate Brands Sued Over Lead, Cadmium

We know that many of our customers reach for dark chocolate as a treat. When enjoyed in small quantities, as part of a healthy diet, it is possible to have the sweeter things in life without ruining your blood sugar. You can be okay if you balance it with many high-fiber, low-sugar, protein-rich foods. And it’s often believed that dark chocolate can have some health benefits. However, this sweet treat might not have the health benefits you think.

In the past, we have written that chocolate isn’t a health food. No matter the marketing, it’s still candy. It may have some heart health benefits, but it’s still filled with sugar. However, if you eat it sparingly and are mindful of your diet, you can enjoy it as a special treat. No one should feel guilty about enjoying their food.

But, some manufacturers might have to feel guilty about what they sell. A Consumer Reports (CR) study found five popular dark chocolate brands tested high for lead and cadmium. CR tested 28 dark chocolate bar brands to measure their levels of heavy metals. All of them contained lead and cadmium.

CR used California’s maximum allowable dosage level (MADL) of lead and cadmium to determine the worst offenders. The commonly enjoyed Trader Joe’s brand had two dangerous bars. Their Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao had 192 percent of the lead MADL, while the Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate 85% Cacao had 127 percent of the lead MADL and 229 percent of the cadmium MADL. Hershey Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate had 265 percent of the lead MADL. Lindt also had two products that were considered dangerous. Their Excellence Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa had 166 percent of the lead MADL, and Excellence Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa had 116 percent of the cadmium MADL. Godiva Signature Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao had 146 percent of the lead MADL. Finally, Dove Promises Deeper Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao had 112 percent of the cadmium MADL.

While we’re pleased that Russell Stover isn’t at the top of the list, practically every other big-name chocolate brand you can easily buy in the supermarket is. That’s distressing, especially so close to the holidays when most of us have given or received chocolate that is possibly on that list.

Godiva said, “Consumers can be assured that all GODIVA products are safe, and that our products follow all relevant government regulations. Any detectable amounts of these metals are naturally occurring and are not a result of manufacturing or shipping processes.”

Hershey stated, “We do not add cadmium or lead to our products, and we work closely with our suppliers to minimize their presence in our products. Consumers can rest assured that they may continue to enjoy Hershey products safely.”

Chocolate that is lower in cacao is more likely to be lower in heavy metals. Taza Chocolate and Ghiradelli tested as being safe. According to the FDA, lead can end up in food naturally because of where it was grown and processed. But it’s the manufacturer’s job to minimize people’s exposure to heavy metals and warn consumers of dangers.

There are now lawsuits against Trader Joe’s and Hershey for not labeling their products with warnings. If the metals cannot be removed from the products, they must tell people of the risk associated with eating them. Cadmium can harm kidneys and cause fragile bones. Lead is linked to weak muscles, anemia and kidney and brain damage. Lead harms children even more severely as it can lower their IQ, cause cognitive impairment and create behavioral problems.

Eating small amounts of dark chocolate on rare occasions will most likely cause no harm. The problem is a buildup of heavy metals over time. However, it might be best to steer away from these brands. For the sake of your overall health, it might be better to give it a miss for now.  

Banner image: Tetiana Bykovets via Unsplash

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