CR today released test results that have it urging Hershey’s to get harmful lead and cadmium out of its chocolate products

Key Findings:

  • Despite its reputation for healthfulness, dark chocolate can be contaminated with lead and cadmium, two heavy metals linked to severe health problems, as confirmed by Consumer Reports’ testing last year.
  • In its latest round of testing, CR tested 48 other kinds of chocolate products and foods made with it from name brands in seven categories– cocoa powder, chocolate chips, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, brownie mixes, chocolate cake, and hot chocolate–for lead and cadmium. 
  • One-third of the products tested, 16 out of 48, had worrisome levels of at least one of those heavy metals. In some cases, the levels were more than twice as high as the limits CR used.
  • As expected, dark chocolates tended to have higher levels of heavy metals and milk chocolate lower. “But every product we tested had detectable amounts of lead and cadmium,” says James E. Rogers, Ph.D., director and acting head of product safety testing at CR.
  • “In general, products with higher cocoa content tend to have higher levels of metals, but not always,” says Eric Boring, PhD, a CR chemist who oversaw our chocolate tests. “There’s enough variation in the lead levels within each category of foods that it’s clear factors other than cocoa content affect lead levels, and that means manufacturers can reduce the heavy metals in their products to the lowest levels possible.”
  • Hershey’s urged to take action: CR has launched a new petition calling on Hershey’s to step up its efforts to reduce the levels of toxic heavy metals in its chocolate products after its testing found the company’s cocoa powder had concerning levels of lead. Hershey’s milk chocolate also had the highest levels of lead in CR’s tests. Some of Hershey’s dark chocolate bars had some of the highest levels of lead and cadmium in CR’s previous tests.
  • To assess the risk from lead and cadmium, CR looked at whether a serving of each product would expose someone to California’s standard maximum allowable dose levels (MADL) for lead (0.5 micrograms per day) and cadmium (4.1 micrograms per day).  As part of a settlement to a lawsuit brought by As You Sow, an organization that pushes for corporate accountability, California has set less strict MADL levels for chocolates, depending on their percent cacao. CR’s scientists measured heavy metal content against California’s standard levels because there are no federal limits for the amount of lead and cadmium most foods can contain, and they believe that California’s standard levels are the most protective available. However, CR’s tests are not assessments of whether a product exceeds California’s or any other legal standard—they are meant to indicate which products had comparatively higher levels of heavy metals.

Full Report:

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