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Consumer Reports delivers petition signatures urging the Hershey Company to remove harmful heavy metals from its dark chocolate products

More than 75,000 consumers have called on Hershey’s to protect the public from toxic lead and cadmium in its dark chocolate bars

HERSHEY, PA – Consumer Reports delivered another batch of petition signatures to the Hershey Company today calling on it to reduce the level of dangerous heavy metals in their dark chocolate products. More than 75,000 consumers have signed CR’s petition to Hershey’s urging the company to take action.

Dark chocolate bars carrying the Hershey’s name or marketed by companies owned by the Hershey Company were among those that had the highest levels of lead or cadmium in recent tests conducted by CR. In March, Hershey’s chief financial officer told Reuters that the company “continue[s] to look for opportunities” to reduce levels of heavy metals in its dark chocolate, but no firm commitments have been announced.

“Dark chocolate lovers are understandably alarmed that some of Hershey’s bars had particularly high levels of lead and cadmium in CR’s tests,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy for Consumer Reports. “The good news is that some of the brands we tested had lower levels of heavy metals, so we know it’s possible to make dark chocolate products that are safer for consumers. As a leading and popular brand of chocolate, we urge Hershey’s to make a firm commitment to get dangerous heavy metals out of its dark chocolate bars.”

Consumer Reports scientists measured the amount of heavy metals in 28 dark chocolate bars and detected cadmium and lead in all of them. For 23 of the bars, eating just one 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.

CR found that Lily’s Extremely Dark Chocolate 85% cocoa, which is owned by Hershey’s, was among five bars it tested that had high levels of both lead and cadmium. Hershey’s Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate had the highest level of lead of any of the bars tested by Consumer Reports. The Scharffen Berger Extra Dark Chocolate 82% Cacao bar, owned by Hershey’s, was one of the bars with the highest levels of cadmium in CR’s tests.

While most of the chocolate bars in CR’s test had concerning levels of lead or cadmium, five of them were relatively low in both: Mast Organic Dark Chocolate 80% Cocoa, Ghiradelli Intense Dark Chocolate Twilight Delight 72% Cacao, Ghiradelli Intense Dark Chocolate 86% Cacao, Taza Chocolate Organic Deliciously Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao, and Valrhona Abinao Dark Chocolate 85% Cacao.

Consistent, long-term exposure to even small amounts of heavy metals can lead to a variety of health problems. The danger is greatest for pregnant people and young children because the metals can cause developmental problems, affect brain development, and lead to lower IQ.

Frequent exposure to lead in adults, for example, can lead to nervous system problems, hypertension, immune system suppression, kidney damage, and reproductive issues. While most people don’t eat chocolate every day, 15 percent do, according to the market research firm Mintel. Even if you aren’t a frequent eater of chocolate, lead and cadmium can still be a concern.

Michael McCauley, michael.mccauley@consumer.org, 415-902-9537