Dark chocolate heavy metals cadmium and lead

Heavy metal can be found in your music. Heavy metals in dark chocolate can be problematic.

Universal Images Group via Getty Images

It is possible that the dark chocolate you are eating has a dark side. Testing of 28 different dark chocolate bars from popular brands by Consumer Reports has found concerning levels of two heavy metals in 23 of them. Heavy metal is ok in your music, but not in your chocolate.

Consumer Reports used California's maximum allowable dose level of 4.1 microgram as the threshold for cadmium levels and found that the bars exceeded this threshold.

  • Beyond Good Organic Pure Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa: with cadmium levels reaching 112% of California's MADL
  • Beyond Good Organic Pure Dark Chocolate 80% Cocoa: 138%
  • Equal Exchange Organic Extra Dark Chocolate 80% Cacao: 120%
  • Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa: 116%
  • Scharffen Berger Extra Dark Chocolate 82% Cacao: 136%
  • Alter Eco Organic Dark Chocolate Classic Blackout 85% Cacao: 204%
  • Pascha Organic Very Dark Dark Chocolate 85% Cacao: 253%
  • Dove Promises Deeper Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao: 112%

Some of the bars had the word "organic" in their names, which is similar to the word "handsome" or "beautiful" in your dating profile. It looks like there is no guarantee that the levels of the metal won't be over the limit in California.

Consumer Reports testing found lead levels that were too high based on the state's MADL.

  • Tony's Chocolonely Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa: with lead levels reaching 134% of the California’s MADL
  • Lily's Extra Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa: 144%
  • Godiva Signature Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao: 146%
  • Chocolove Strong Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa: 152%
  • Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa: 166%
  • Endangered Species Bold + Silky Dark Chocolate 72% Cocoa: 181%
  • Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao: 192%
  • Hu Organic Simple Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao: 210%
  • Chocolove Extreme Dark Chocolate 88% Cocoa: 240%
  • Hershey's Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate: 265%

One of the bars had a label that said "organic" There were some with high levels of both lead and Cd.

  • Theo Organic Pure Dark 70% Cocoa: 120% of the MADL for lead, 142% for cadmium
  • Trader Joe's The Dark Chocolate Lover's Chocolate 85% Cacao: 127% and 229%
  • Theo Organic Extra Dark Pure Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa: 140% and 189%
  • Lily's Extremely Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa: 143% and 101%
  • Green & Black's Organic Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao: 143% and 181%

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Two of the bars had levels of both heavy metals that were more than California's.

California's MADL is too high a bar for these bars to reach. Consumer Reports used the California thresholds because there are no federal limits. Watching cat videos is not a good way to consume lead and Cadmium. It must be a limit.

Exposure to even small amounts of lead or cadmium over a long period of time could result in some bad health doo-doo. Exposure could affect brain development if you are a young child. If you are pregnant, whatever you eat can affect your baby's development if you have more than one child. Just because you are an adult and think your brain is developed to the point that you are a stable genius doesn't mean you can eat lead with impunity. High blood pressure, suppression of your immune system, and damage to your reproductive organs can all be caused by Lead and Cadmium. Dark chocolate can be so delicious, but all of these are not good.

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It is not considered safe to have a lot of lead or cadmium. If someone asks you if you want more lead in your chocolate, just say no and leave the store. It's not a good idea to have more lead or Cadmium in your diet.

It's not possible to completely eliminate lead and Cadmium from your body. Carrots and spinach have small amounts of heavy metals in them. Heavy metal effects can be cumulative. Any amount is added up.

How did these levels of metals get into these bars? Lead can be transferred from the soil to the plants when they are growing, but it can also be transferred from the soil to the beans when they are harvesting. Improving harvesting and manufacturing practices would help keep the lead out. The issue of cadmium is a growing one. The question is if farmers can find ways to grow cacao plants that take up less heavy metal, or if they can use soil that has less of it. One idea is to genetically engineer the plants so that they don't suck as much as possible.

Cacao Beans

Cacao beans can be exposed to lead-laden dirt and dust when they are laid out to dry. Mauricio Palos is a correspondent forBloomberg.


The Consumer Reports testing showed that things weren't all bad. Some bars did not test for bad news. Of the 28 bars tested, 23 had high levels of heavy metals and five had low levels of heavy metals.

  • Mast Organic Dark Chocolate 80% Cocoa: had lead levels that were 14% of the California MADL and cadmium levels that were 40% of the California MADL
  • Taza Chocolate Organic Deliciously Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao: 33% for lead and 74% for cadmium
  • Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate 86% Cacao: 36% for lead and 39% for cadmium,
  • Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate Twilight Delight 72% Cacao: 61% for lead and 96% for cadmium,
  • Valrhona Abinao Dark Chocolate 85% Cacao: 63% for lead and 73% for cadmium.

Ghirardelli Factory

Two of Ghirardelli's Intense Dark Chocolate bars had low levels of lead and cadmium. The photo was taken by the Smith Collection.

Getty Images

What can you do about the Consumer Reports testing? It is possible to give up dark chocolate without giving up happiness. The five bars that had the lowest levels of lead and cadmium were the ones that were stuck to. It will be helpful to moderate the amount of dark chocolate that you eat. Since it's thought that dark chocolate is a healthier treat than milk chocolate, this would be a drag. Eating a balanced diet doesn't mean you have to eat chocolate all the time. You could limit your obsession to a few days a week.

It would be great if the manufacturers of dark chocolate could find ways to reduce the amount of lead in their bars. If five bars stayed below the California MADLs, this wouldn't be a high bar. The "Dark Side of Dark Chocolate" petition was put together by Consumer Reports. We call on the CEOs of Trader Joe's, Hershey's, Mondelez and Theo to commit to reducing levels of lead and cadmium in their dark chocolate and to publicly communicate progress so we know they are taking action. We want to have a good time with your chocolate. It's possible to give yourself to the dark side when it comes to chocolates. You want things to be light.