Your Favorite Chocolate Bar Might Contain Heavy Metals

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Hershey's Special Dark chocolate bars
George Sheldon /

If you love dark chocolate bars, beware: That sweet treat might contain unwanted heavy metals such as lead and cadmium.

Past research has indicated the presence of such heavy metals — which have been linked to health issues in both children and adults — in dark chocolate. Recently, Consumer Reports set out discover the amount of the metals in popular candy bars.

Among the 28 dark chocolate bars tested, all had cadmium and lead. In 23 of the bars, heavy metal concentration was high enough that just 1 ounce of the chocolate would put you past the level that is considered safe for an adult to consume in a day.

In five of the bars, both cadmium and lead were present in unsafe levels after eating as little as an ounce.

According to CR:

“Consistent, long-term exposure to even small amounts of heavy metals can lead to a variety of health problems. The danger is greatest for pregnant people and young children because the metals can cause developmental problems, affect brain development, and lead to lower IQ, says Tunde Akinleye, the CR food safety researcher who led this testing project.”

However, risks are present for people of all ages. Consuming these heavy metals on a regular basis can result in:

  • Nervous system problems
  • Hypertension
  • Immune system suppression
  • Kidney damage
  • Reproductive issues

Ironically, the cocoa solids that make dark chocolate relatively healthy — due to the fact that they are rich in antioxidants known as flavanols — also are the source of the heavy metals in the chocolate.

Thus, steps need to be taken in harvesting and manufacturing to reduce the amount of heavy metals in dark chocolate.

Unfortunately, dark chocolate is not the only food where you might find heavy metals. Lead and cadmium also can be found in foods such as sweet potatoes, spinach and carrots, according to Consumer Reports.

Eating these foods in combination is especially likely to tip your consumption of heavy metals past safe levels.

How popular brands ranked

According to CR, the following chocolate bars had high levels of cadmium:

  • Beyond Good Organic Pure Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa
  • Beyond Good Organic Pure Dark Chocolate 80% Cocoa
  • Equal Exchange Organic Extra Dark Chocolate 80% Cacao
  • Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa
  • Scharffen Berger Extra Dark Chocolate 82% Cacao
  • Alter Eco Organic Dark Chocolate Classic Blackout 85% Cacao
  • Pascha Organic Very Dark / Dark Chocolate 85% Cacao
  • Dove Promises Deeper Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao

Meanwhile, these bars had high levels of lead:

  • Tony’s Chocolonely Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa
  • Lily’s Extra Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa
  • Godiva Signature Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao
  • Chocolove Strong Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa
  • Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa
  • Endangered Species Bold + Silky Dark Chocolate 72% Cocoa
  • Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao
  • Hu Organic Simple Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao
  • Chocolove Extreme Dark Chocolate 88% Cocoa
  • Hershey’s Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate

Finally, a handful of chocolate bars had high levels of both cadmium and lead:

  • Theo Organic Pure Dark 70% Cocoa
  • Trader Joe’s The Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate 85% Cacao
  • Theo Organic Extra Dark Pure Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa
  • Lily’s Extremely Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa
  • Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao

5 bars that are lower in heavy metals

The good news is that even if you are worried about exposure to heavy metals, you don’t necessarily need to give up dark chocolate altogether.

Consumer Reports says the following dark chocolate bars are safer choices, with lower levels of heavy metals:

  • Mast Organic Dark Chocolate 80% Cocoa
  • Taza Chocolate Organic Deliciously Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao
  • Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate 86% Cacao
  • Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate Twilight Delight 72% Cacao
  • Valrhona Abinao Dark Chocolate 85% Cacao

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