Chocolate Reviews
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National Confectioners Responds to Consumer Reports Story on Heavy Metals in Chocolate, Cocoa Products

Oct. 26, 2023
Publication tested numerous items, from dark chocolate to milk chocolate bars, cocoa powder, cake mixes and hot chocolate mixes in its latest analysis of lead and cadmium levels in chocolate and cocoa products.

The National Confectioners Association (NCA) has responded to an October 25 Consumer Reports article discussing concerns over the levels of lead and cadmium in chocolate and cocoa, stating: “Chocolate and cocoa are safe to eat and can be enjoyed as treats as they have been for centuries. Food safety and product quality remain our highest priorities and we remain dedicated to being transparent and socially responsible.”

The special report published by Consumer Reports significantly expands upon testing done last year to analyze the amount of lead and cadmium found in various dark chocolate products. The new report tested 48 products in seven categories, from milk chocolate to cocoa powder, brownie and cake mixes to chocolate chips, and it found that one-third of chocolate products contain high levels of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. 

The NCA, however, says those findings disregard levels previously set by the Superior Court of the State of California, San Francisco County California in 2018. A consent judgment was granted to the chocolate and cocoa industry at the time, which established concentration levels for lead and cadmium that supersede the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment Maximum Allowable Dose Levels for cocoa and chocolate products, the NCA response states.

Not all product categories fared poorly, according to the test results. First, the organization also tested for arsenic and mercury this time around and found no risk of arsenic or mercury exposure in any of the products. Additionally, none of the milk chocolate bars tested above the levels deemed unsafe by Consumer Reports, and none of the chocolate chip products surpassed the limit for cadmium (although two of them topped the limit for lead). It is worth noting, however, that the report stated that chocolate chip numbers did not account for people who like to eat "more than a few cookies, or a handful of chips straight out of the bag." Dark chocolate products fared worst of the product categories.

Consumer Reports also received a response for comment from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which it published later in the article. The FDA told Consumer Reports: “While the presence of cadmium and lead in chocolate has been the subject of considerable media attention, experts from around the world have found that chocolate is a minor source of exposure to these contaminants internationally.”

About the Author

Andy Hanacek | Senior Editor

Andy Hanacek has covered meat, poultry, bakery and snack foods as a B2B editor for nearly 20 years, and has toured hundreds of processing plants and food companies, sharing stories of innovation and technological advancement throughout the food supply chain. In 2018, he won a Folio:Eddie Award for his unique "From the Editor's Desk" video blogs, and he has brought home additional awards from Folio and ASBPE over the years. In addition, Hanacek led the Meat Industry Hall of Fame for several years and was vice president of communications for We R Food Safety, a food safety software and consulting company.

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