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CR petitions chocolate makers to reduce dangerous heavy metals in products

CR calls on Trader Joe’s, Hershey’s, Mondelez and Theo to reduce levels of lead and cadmium in dark chocolate bars

YONKERS, NY – Consumer Reports called on leading dark chocolate makers today to reduce the level of dangerous heavy metals in their products after recent tests by CR found concerning amounts of lead and cadmium in some of their offerings. In letters accompanied by nearly 55,000 petition signatures, CR urged Trader Joe’s, Hershey’s, Mondelez and Theo to make a commitment to take action by Valentine’s Day.

Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports, noted in the letter to the companies, “Consumers are troubled that many of their favorite dark chocolate bars contain high levels of heavy metals. Many choose to eat dark chocolate because of its potential health benefits and relatively low levels of sugar. But there’s nothing healthy about ingesting heavy metals.”

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.

Five of the bars were above those levels for both cadmium and lead: Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate 85% cacao; Lily’s Extremely Dark Chocolate 85% cocoa (owned by Hershey’s); Theo Organic Pure Dark Chocolate 70% cocoa; Theo Extra Dark Pure Dark Chocolate 85% cocoa; and Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate 70% cacao (owned by Mondelez).

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.  It can be found in many other foods – such as sweet potatoes, spinach, and carrots – and small amounts from multiple sources can add up to dangerous levels.

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