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Debunking Consumer Reports "Lead & Cadmium in chocolate" panic

Many of you may have asked me about the recent Consumer Reports article, that warns about the consumption of dark chocolate because of levels of lead and Cadmium (and the unsurprising follow-up of Hershey being sued for this)

TL;DR- no reason to panic.

There are two main issues with this article:

  • How does chocolate compare to other foods we regularly consume? Would any of them pass these thresholds?
  • Were the thresholds used for evaluation even the right thresholds?

How does chocolate compare to other foods we regularly consume?

In this article, chocolate is examined in a vacuum- many foods actually contain heavy metals (we are most familiar with warnings regarding excessive consumption of fish that have high levels of mercury, lead, and cadmium), but like everything in life, the dosage is key.

The answer- most food we consume regularly would actually fail this test.

Example: 

Theo chocolate listed in the ”High Cadmium” section, supposedly has 5.68mcg of cadmium in an ounce of chocolate. Compare that to:

  • An average-sized potato contains 5-25mcg of cadmium.
  • Bread and cereal are the foods with the highest levels of Cadmium and contribute most to Cadmium intake.
  • Bottled water- the FDA defines up to 5mcg per liter as the safe level of Cadmium in bottled water- even that would fail this test.

What were the thresholds used for evaluation?

The thresholds used for evaluation are completely non-scientific- they use California’s Proposition 65- a law (ie- public policy) that is unique to California and is not in any way a scientific standard related to health or safety. 

This law states that products need to have a warning on them if the content of a substance in it is over 1/1000 of the scientifically proven level at which any harm has been documented (which is why most products have that warning on them). Products with small amounts of low-risk substances are labeled as severely as products that contain huge amounts of potentially harmful chemicals.

As stated by Consumer Reports, the Cadmium level defined by proposition 65 is 4.1mcg, meaning the actual scientific level is over 4000mcg. There is no data saying a level of 4mcg, 40mcg, or even 400mcg can be dangerous- all we know is that it should be under 4000mcg (and consider there are always additional security buffers included in the scientific values)

Conclusion:

These levels of heavy metals should not be of concern. 

When deciding which chocolate to consume, what should be taken into consideration is the real problem in the cocoa growing industry- almost every chocolate you buy in a grocery store has child labor and in some cases child slavery in the growing process (see list of ethically sourced chocolates that don't have that problem here)

* ChocAllure proudly uses VALRHONA in the making of our Chocolate Jewels- a B certified corporation whose chocolate is entirely ethically sourced (meaning no child labor or slavery is involved).