Consumer Reports Just Found Lead and Cadmium in Some Popular Dark Chocolate Brands

Here’s how to shop for safer chocolate brands and keep yourself healthy. 

Chocolate is a staple in many kitchens. Whether it's for baking or a sweet treat after dinner, chocolate is the ultimate pantry essential. A recent report from Consumer Reports suggests that some popular chocolate brands are higher in lead and cadmium than what's within the healthy ranges.

These two heavy metals can be dangerous for adults and children when consumed in excess. The Consumer Reports study tested 28 different popular dark chocolate brands to see if they could trace lead and cadmium in amounts that could harm people's health.

If consumed regularly, these heavy metals could cause developmental problems among children, and in adults, hypertension, immune system problems, kidney damage and more, according to Tunde Akinleye, a food safety researcher on the project.

Dark chocolate is particularly concerning as it contains more cocoa solids from the cacao bean than milk chocolate. Heavy metals like cadmium and lead often accumulate in cocoa solids, making products with more solids, like dark chocolate, more problematic than others.


Consumer Reports tested 28 different dark chocolate bars for lead and cadmium and used California's maximum allowable dose level to determine which chocolate bars were "safer choices," "high in cadmium," "high in lead" and "high in both cadmium and lead."

Twenty-three of the brands tested had enough lead or cadmium present that eating just 1 ounce per day could seriously impact your health. Five of the bars tested had potentially dangerous levels of both heavy metals.

Brands like Theo, Trader Joe's and Lily's all had high levels of lead and cadmium, making them the riskiest ones tested. The study also tested brands like Ghirardelli dark chocolate and Taza Chocolate, concluding that their levels of the heavy metals were low enough to make them safer choices.

Consumer Reports said that it could be difficult to trace just how these heavy metals make it into dark chocolates since they have different ways of contaminating the chocolate. Lead often seeps into beans after harvest from contact with roads and dirty equipment. The best practice to minimize lead levels is to clean and dry the beans carefully. Cadmium contamination occurs primarily through the soil beans are grown in, making it a more strenuous process for the chocolate industry to remedy.

The study advises chocolate lovers to consume their dark chocolate minimally and consider what brands are deemed "safer choices" than others. The researchers also recommend limiting dark chocolate consumption in children, as lead and cadmium are most harmful to kids. Eating chocolates with lower cacao percentages could also limit your risk of consuming harmful levels of these heavy metals.

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