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Lead and Cadmium in Dark Chocolate: Risks and Solutions

Updated: Mar 31

At Island Sharks, we are committed to providing reliable and informative content on food safety and related topics. Our lab tests revealed less that .01 parts per million in half a bar of our Hawaii Chocolate of both cadmium and lead. Here are our lab results.

We have <0.01 ppm of Cadmium and Lead in 50 grams of our Hawaii cacao
Island Sharks Results for an Entire Bar! (2 servings each)

In this article, we will discuss the risks of lead and cadmium in dark chocolate, and suggest some solutions for consumers who want to enjoy this popular treat without compromising their health.

Mitigating Exposure

As consumers, we rely on food labels and regulatory agencies to ensure the safety of the foods we eat. However, in recent years, concerns have arisen regarding the potential presence of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium in dark chocolate. In this article, we will provide an in-depth look at the sources and risks of exposure to these metals, as well as strategies for reducing exposure and mitigating potential harm.

Here are the TOP 3 brands (and their origins) exposing you now!

It is difficult to provide exact amounts of cadmium and lead in cocoa beans from specific origins, as these levels can vary significantly within each region due to differences in soil composition, environmental factors, and agricultural practices. There are also multiple studies on each terroir:

  1. Trader Joe's - "Pound Plus Dark Chocolate (72% Cacao) Bar" Origin - Worldwide. Possible Sources: Andean South America: Cadmium; Colombia = 0.32 to 3.31 mg/kg. Ecuador = 0.12 to 1.98 mg/kg. Peru = 0.05 to 1.10 mg/kg. Lead (Pb): levels in these regions are not as well-documented but are generally lower compared to cadmium levels.

  2. Hershey's Origin - Worldwide Possible Sources: Central America Cadmium; Guatemala = 0.06 to 0.41 mg/kg Honduras = 0.05 to 0.42 mg/kg. Pb; levels in these regions are not well-documented.

  3. Ghirardelli, Godiva, Lindt Origin - Worldwide Possible Sources: West Africa, Madagascar Cadmium; Nigeria= 0.01 to 0.17 mg/kg, Lead; Nigeria = 0.01 to 0.24 mg/kg. West African cocoa beans (Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana) generally have lower levels of Cd and Pb compared to Andean South America and Central America.

It is important to note that these values are general ranges and may not represent the exact levels of cadmium and lead in all cocoa beans from these regions. Additionally, contamination levels can change over time due to shifts in environmental factors and improvements in permaculture practices.

The European Union established max levels for cadmium in cocoa and chocolate products. For example, the limit for dark chocolate with over 50% cocoa solids is 0.8 mg/kg. For milk chocolate, the limit is 0.3 mg/kg. Here are the maximum lead levels allowed by the EU for different categories of chocolate:

  1. 0.1 mg/kg for milk chocolate (cocoa solids content of at least 25%)

  2. 0.3 mg/kg for dark chocolate (cocoa solids content of at least 50%)

  3. 0.6 mg/kg for chocolate with high cocoa content (cocoa solids content of at least 70%)

Cacao Powder
Leaded or Unlead Chocolate?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a limit of 0.1 ppm (parts per million) for lead in candy likely to be consumed frequently by small children. The FDA's guidance on cadmium in food indicates that levels should not exceed 0.1 mg/kg for most foods, and they may be even lower for some specific types of foods.

It's important to note that regulations and guidelines may change over time, so it's a good idea to check the most recent information from the FDA and the EU to stay up-to-date with their recommendations What You Can Do to Minimize Your Exposure

While it may be difficult to completely avoid lead and cadmium in chocolate, there are steps you can take to minimize your exposure. Here are a few tips:

  1. Choose chocolate that is labeled as being low in lead and cadmium. Some manufacturers test their chocolate for these metals and will include this information on the label.

  2. Limit your consumption of chocolate. While it may be tempting to indulge in a chocolate bar every day, it's best to consume it in moderation.

  3. Opt for high-quality, organic chocolate. These types of chocolate are less likely to contain lead and cadmium, as they are grown in soil that is free from contamination.

  4. Avoid chocolate that is made in countries with lax regulations. Some countries may have less strict regulations when it comes to hea