Report says dangerous heavy metals such as lead found in popular dark chocolate brands, including Hershey’s and Trader Joe’s
- Dark chocolate is widely considered healthy, but testing has found contaminants in popular brands.
- Consumer Reports has identified both cadmium and lead in chocolate brands like Trader Joe’s and Hu.
- Exposure is associated with serious health problems over time. Experts say awareness and moderation are key.
Dangerous heavy metals, including lead, may be lurking in your favorite dark chocolate brands, according to new test results from Consumer Reports.
The nonprofit consumer advocacy organization tested 28 different dark chocolate bars from popular brands. They found that all but five contained high enough levels of the contaminant that an adult’s intake of one ounce per day might be above levels normally considered safe.
Chocolate from brands including Tony’s, Lindt’s, Hershey’s, and Hu have been found to contain relatively high levels of lead.
Lead exposure is linked to cognitive impairment, especially in children, as it can lead to developmental problems and lower IQ. It can also cause reproductive problems in adults, as well as high blood pressure and neurological problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.
High levels of cadmium have been detected in products from Lindt, Dove, Beyond Good, and others. The metal is considered a carcinogen and exposure over time has been linked to kidney disease and osteoporosis, according to the CDC.
One Trader Joe’s bar was found to contain high levels of both lead and cadmium.
Dark chocolate tends to be higher in heavy metals than milk chocolate because it contains more cacao, the bean used to make the chocolate, which could have been contaminated either from the soil in which it was grown, or after the beans were picked, the researchers said.
The levels found in the test did not break any laws, according to Consumer Reports, since there are no federal limits for lead and cadmium in most foods.
But the main danger of heavy metals is that they can build up in the body over time, causing health problems with frequent small dose increases, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
As a result, it’s worth being aware of the risks, and there may be ways to reduce your exposure by choosing products with lower levels, like some chocolate bars that were tested, according to the food safety researchers at Consumer Reports.
“This shows that it’s possible for companies to make products with fewer amounts of heavy metals — and for consumers to find safer products that they enjoy,” said Tunde Akinle, a Consumer Reports food safety researcher who led the testing project.
Several of the mentioned brands contacted by Insider for comment pointed to a statement from the National Association of Confectioners, which cites a settlement in California related to contamination concerns.
“The products cited in this study comply with our stringent quality and safety requirements, and the levels provided to us by Consumer Reports testing are well below the limits set by our settlement,” the statement reads in part. “Food safety and product quality remain our top priority, and we remain committed to transparency and social responsibility.”
Dark chocolate is often considered a healthy choice, but it steers clear of contaminants
Despite the concern about contamination, there is good reason to enjoy dark chocolate once in a while.
Evidence suggests that dark chocolate is heart healthy, and helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure thanks to beneficial plant compounds called flavonoids.
In contrast, milk chocolate contains fewer flavonoids and more additives such as sugar. However, the trade-off is that nutrient-rich cocoa could be the source of the contaminants found by Consumer Reports.
Some researchers are looking to infuse the benefits of dark chocolate into sweeter varieties of milk chocolate. For now, your best bet may be moderation, according to a Consumer Reports researcher.
One serving of dark chocolate is about 30 grams.
“Eating a meal a few days a week, especially with a product with lower levels, means you can eat dark chocolate without worrying unduely,” Akinle said.
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