Skip to main content

Consumer Reports Finds Heavy Metals in 23 of 28 Brands of Dark Chocolate


Share This article

Could some of your Christmas chocolate be tainted by dangerous substances? A new investigation from Consumer Reports (CR) is raising some concerns about potentially dangerous amounts of heavy metals in dark chocolate.

The new research conducted by the nonprofit advocacy organization was released Thursday.

Over the years, dark chocolate has been lauded for its potential health benefits in studies suggesting its rich supply of antioxidants may improve heart health and other conditions, and for its relatively low levels of sugar.  

But scientists at CR found that some dark chocolate bars contain cadmium and lead—two heavy metals linked to a host of health problems in children and adults. 

They measured the amount of heavy metals in 28 dark chocolate bars from a mix of different brands and detected cadmium and lead in all of them.

For 23 of the bars, eating just an ounce a day would put an adult over a level that public health authorities and CR's experts say may be harmful for at least one of those heavy metals. Five of the bars were above those levels for both cadmium and lead, according to the report

"But there are risks for people of any age," CR food safety researcher Tunde Akinleye said in a statement. "Frequent exposure to lead in adults, for example, can lead to nervous system problems, hypertension, immune system suppression, kidney damage, and reproductive issues," he explained. 

Akinleye also noted that lead and cadmium can still be found in many other foods, including sweet potatoes, spinach, and carrots. These small amounts from multiple sources over time can add up to dangerous levels. That's why it's important to limit such exposure. 

Still, Akinleye says you don't have to stop eating chocolate. While most of the chocolate bars in the CR study had concerning levels of lead, cadmium, or both, five of them were relatively low in both.

"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," he said. 

CR explained it used California's maximum allowable dose level (MADL) for lead (0.5 micrograms) and cadmium (4.1mcg). But CBS News noted there are no federal limits. 

Among the more well-known consumer brands, two stood out. In an ounce of Hershey's Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate, CR researchers detected it contained 265% of lead above what California approves. Likewise, Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao had 192% more lead. 

Candy Makers Group Responds

Responding to the study, the National Confectioners Association said in a statement, "The guidelines cited in the Consumer Reports study are not food safety standards."

"Chocolate and cocoa are safe to eat and can be enjoyed as treats as they have been for centuries. The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) guidelines cited in the Consumer Reports study are not food safety standards. An expert investigation conducted through our prior California Proposition 65 settlement concluded that cadmium and lead are present in cocoa and chocolate due to soil and that bean cleaning during processing cocoa beans reduces lead and cadmium in chocolate products," the statement noted. 

"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," the statement continued. 

Back in August, the confectioners association released a report about how levels of lead and cadmium in cocoa and chocolate could be reduced. The report identified and prioritized a list of recommended cadmium and lead reduction measures for the industry to consider implementing, including new handling practices, soil treatment, and new tree stock. 

Click here to learn more about the Consumer Reports study.

***Please sign up for CBN Newsletters and download the CBN News app to ensure you keep receiving the latest news from a distinctly Christian perspective.***

Share This article

About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of