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Lead and Cadmium in Dark Chocolate: Risks and Solutions

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

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 heavy metal contamination in food.

Sources of Lead and Cadmium in Dark Chocolate

Lead and cadmium are naturally occurring elements that can be found in soil and water. Cocoa trees, from which cocoa beans are harvested, can absorb these metals from the soil and transport them to the beans. This means that cocoa beans, the primary ingredient in dark chocolate, can contain measurable levels of lead and cadmium.

Contamination can also occur during the manufacturing process. Chocolate processing equipment that is made of lead or cadmium-containing materials can leach these metals into the chocolate. In addition, leaded gasoline used in transportation can result in the deposition of lead onto the cocoa beans during shipping.

Risks of Lead and Cadmium Exposure

Lead and cadmium exposure can have significant adverse effects on the body, especially in vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant women, and individuals with compromised immune systems. Lead can damage the brain and nervous system, leading to cognitive and behavioral problems. In children, lead exposure can cause developmental delays, hearing loss, and anemia. Long-term exposure to lead can also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and kidney damage.

Cadmium exposure can also be harmful to the body, particularly to the kidneys. This metal can accumulate in the kidneys, causing damage and leading to renal failure. Chronic cadmium exposure has also been associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis, lung cancer, and prostate cancer.

Our Tested Hawaii Cacao
Our Tested Hawaii Cacao

Strategies for Reducing Exposure

There are several strategies that can be employed to reduce exposure to lead and cadmium in dark chocolate. One approach is to limit consumption of dark chocolate, particularly if other sources of lead or cadmium are present in the diet. Consuming high-quality, organic dark chocolate may also reduce the risk of exposure, as these products are typically grown in soil that is free from contamination.

In addition, some manufacturers of chocolate may test their products for the presence of these metals and include this information on the label. Choosing chocolate that is labeled as being low in lead and cadmium is one strategy for reducing exposure. It is also advisable to avoid chocolate that is made in countries with lax regulations or that use leaded gasoline for transportation, as these may be more likely to contain higher levels of heavy metals.

Reducing Cadmium and Lead Levels in the Body

For individuals who have been exposed to lead or cadmium, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate potential harm. These include maintaining a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as drinking plenty of water to help flush these metals from the body. In cases of significant exposure, medical treatment may be necessary to remove the metals from the body. Want to try natural remedies? Check these out:

Herbs for Healing.
Some Great Classic Medicinals

Hellenistic/Folk Medicine (Before the AMA)

1. Garlic

2. Onions

3. Leeks

4. Cilantro

Chinese 5 Element Theory
Healing Chinese 5 Element Theory

Chinese 5 Element Theory

1. Dandelion

2. Burdock

3. Milk Thistle


1. Turmeric

2. Ginger

3. Coriander

4. Triphala

5. Ashwaghanda

A Dandelion
Dandelion, the Naturopathic of Opposite Cacao

Otherwise its chelation therapy, sauna's and zinc. Western medicine (regulated by American Medical Association bought out by The Rockefeller Foundation in 1930's). Check out this article about how the American Cancer Society was founded by John D. Rockefeller in 1913. Oh and go here to learn about his purchase of the AMA

Chelation therapy is a medical treatment that is used to remove heavy metals, including lead and cadmium, from the body. It involves the administration of a medication called a chelating agent, which binds to the heavy metal and allows it to be excreted through urine.

Chelation therapy is typically recommended for individuals who have been exposed to high levels of lead or cadmium, and who are at risk of developing health complications as a result. The therapy may also be recommended for individuals with certain medical conditions, such as Wilson's disease, which is a genetic disorder that causes the body to accumulate copper.

It is typically administered intravenously, although oral chelation therapy is also available. The therapy is generally well-tolerated, although some individuals may experience side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

While chelation therapy can be an effective treatment for heavy metal toxicity, it is important to note that it should not be used as a substitute for medical advice. Individuals who suspect that they may have been exposed to lead or cadmium should consult with a healthcare professional for guidance on how to manage and reduce the exposure. Additionally, individuals who are considering chelation therapy should discuss the risks and benefits with their healthcare provider, and should only undergo the treatment under the guidance of a qualified medical professional.

This is all according to the National Library of Medicine.

The National Library of Medicine


While the presence of lead and cadmium in dark chocolate is a potential health concern, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of exposure and mitigate potential harm. The biggest problem probably been the cumulative uptake from other companies. But by being a mindful consumer and choosing chocolate that is low in these metals, and opting for organic products, individuals can continue to enjoy the many benefits of our Hawaii craft chocolate without compromising their health. It is important to remain vigilant and stay informed about potential sources of heavy metal exposure, so that we can make informed choices about the foods we consume. For more about cacao, check out the "Cacao Master List".


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Apr 01, 2023

What a wonderful, well-presented and well-researched article Ethan! I’ll keep it on hand for future reference for sure, and really appreciate the work you put into addressing this very important and timely topic. You are truly a master craftsman and I’m always grateful to learn from you! ~ Dr. Melissa Berry ND

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