Heavy metals found in dark chocolate including Hershey’s and Trader Joe’s

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Long considered healthier than other sweet treats, some types of dark chocolate contain potentially dangerous amounts of heavy metals, according to research released Thursday by Consumer Reports.

Scientists at the nonprofit advocacy organization recently measured heavy metals in 28 popular brands of dark chocolate bars and found cadmium and lead in all of them. For 23 times, consuming just one ounce a day would expose an adult to levels of at least one metal that could be harmful, the CR said. Five times were above that level for both cadmium and lead.

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Experts say that long-term exposure to even small amounts of heavy metals can cause a range of health problems, including developmental problems and brain development in young children.

“But there are risks to people of any age,” Tunde Akinley, the CR food safety researcher who led the trial, said in a statement. In adults, repeated exposure to lead can cause nervous system problems, high blood pressure, immune system suppression, kidney damage and reproductive problems, he said.

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While most of the chocolate bars tested contained about the same level of lead, cadmium or both, five had relatively low levels of both metals, the CR found.

“It shows that it is possible for companies to make products with lower amounts of heavy metals – and for consumers to find safe products that they enjoy,” Akinley said.

In determining the risks of the chocolate tested, the CR used California’s maximum allowable dose levels of 0.5 micrograms for lead and 4.1 micrograms for cadmium, since there are no federal limits.

CR found that an ounce of Hershey’s Special Dark Mildly Sweet chocolate contained 265% more lead than California allows, and Trader Joe’s dark chocolate contained 72% cacao, 192% more.

Trader Joe’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokeswoman for Hershey deferred to the National Confectioners Association for comment. In an emailed statement, the trade group objected to California’s use of the CR set levels, noting that the state does not set federal food safety standards.

In an email to CBS MoneyWatch, a spokesperson for the group said, “The products mentioned in this study are in compliance with strict quality and safety requirements.” “Food safety and product quality are our top priorities and we are dedicated to being transparent and socially responsible.”

The confectioners’ association released research in August showing that lead and cadmium can be reduced in chocolate with cocoa farmers planting new tree stock.

According to CR’s findings, safer options are:

  • Mast Organic Dark Chocolate 80% Cacao. CR found that one ounce contained 14% less lead and 40% less cadmium than California’s allowable limit.
  • Fresh Chocolate Organic Delicious Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao Contains 33% Less Lead and 74% Less Cadmium.
  • Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate 86% Cacao contains 36% less lead and 39% less cadmium.
  • Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate Twilight Delight. Lead was 61% below the acceptable level and Cadmium was 96% below its acceptable limit.
  • Valrhona Abinao Dark Chocolate 85% Cacao. Lead down 63% and Cadmium down 73%.

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