Chocolate has been a long-standing comfort food for generations. Delicious and sweet, there is just something about chocolate that makes it a classic dessert favorite. More recently, dark chocolate has been rising in popularity due to its health benefits. But wait, there’s bad news.
Consumer Reports just released their findings about heavy metals like lead and cadmium in dark chocolate bars, and it’s not good, especially for pregnant people, people trying to get pregnant, and kiddos.
The organization urged vulnerable groups to limit their intake.
So, why are these metals to be avoided? Lead and cadmium metals can be dangerous for adults and children if they are consumed in high doses. If consumed regularly, these heavy metals can cause developmental problems among children. For adults, hypertension, immune system problems, kidney damage and more could arise, according to Tunde Akinleye, a food safety researcher on the project. Kids are at risk for developmental delays, behavioral issues, irritability, digestive issues, damaged organs, and more.
The study focused on dark chocolate in particular because it contains more cocoa solids from the cacao bean than milk chocolate. Heavy metals such as cadmium and lead often gather and grow in cocoa solids, making chocolate bars, especially dark chocolate bars, more risky for pregnant people and children.
Consumer Reports tested 28 different dark chocolate bars for lead and cadmium and used California's maximum allowable dose level to put each chocolate bar into certain categories: “safer choices,” “high in cadmium,” “high in lead” and “high in both cadmium and lead.”
The results were pretty alarming if you’re a frequent Trader Joe’s shopper. Twenty-three of the brands tested had enough lead or cadmium present that eating just 1 ounce per day could put an adult over safe levels for one of the metals. Five of the bars tested had potentially dangerous levels of both heavy metals.
Brands like Theo, Trader Joe's and Lily's all had high levels of lead and cadmium, making them the riskiest chocolate bars to munch on — Hershey’s Special Dark choclate had 265% over the limit of safe levels of lead. Brands like Ghirardelli dark chocolate, Mast chocolate, and Taza Chocolate came out on top as more “safe” choices.
This information is pretty startling considering I’ve lived my whole adult life thinking that dark chocolate was a “healthy dessert” with tons of benefits for my body and mind.
There was even a study published in January 2022 that found that participants who ate 85% dark chocolate daily maintained better overall mood than others who ate chocolate with less cocoa — or no chocolate at all.
So what are die hard chocolate lovers supposed to do? What happens when that pregnancy craving washes over you and will not cease until you’ve consumed some chocolate? Consumer Reports suggests eating dark chocolate minimally and pay attention to what brands are deemed "safer choices" than others. *looks up Taza website*
Another way to take action? You can sign a petition to major brands asking them to limit heavy metals in their chocolate.