Popular chocolate products contain high levels of heavy metals, Consumer Reports finds

A recent study published in Consumer Reports found that heavy metals such as lead and cadmium were found in popular chocolate products. From chocolate bars to brownie mix and the hot cocoa that you’d find at major retailers—a lot of household products were tested.

Consumer Reports tested 48 products and lead and cadmium were found in every single one. Sixteen of those products contained levels of heavy metals that caused concern, the report states. In this study, the heavy metals were found mostly in cocoa solids which is especially present in dark chocolate.

The team tested for lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury and then they took the average of those sample results and measured them against California’s maximum allowable dose levels or MADL. James Rogers, PhD, the director and acting head of product safety testing at Consumer Reports, spoke to Today and explained their decision, “We chose (to measure against the California MADL) because the FDA has not set levels in these types of products, so there is no federal level set.”

Even though none of the products posed a risk for exposure to arsenic and mercury, there were quite a few that raised concerns for lead and cadmium levels.

Here is the list of products that contained the highest levels of of heavy metals:

  • Perugina 85% Dark Chocolate

  • Evolved Signature Dark 72% Cacao Chocolate Bar

  • Hu Dark Chocolate Gems

  • Good & Gather Semi-Sweet Mini Chocolate Chips

  • Droste Cacao Powder

  • Hershey’s Cocoa Naturally Unsweetened 100% Cacao

  • Great Value Milk Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa Mix

  • Starbucks Hot Cocoa Classic

  • Ghirardelli Premium Brownie Mix Double Chocolate

  • Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix

  • Simple Mills Almond Flour Baking Mix – Chocolate Muffin and Cake Mix

So, does that mean you have to skip out on chocolate entirely? Rogers says that pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable to exposure. But, in general, unless you’re consuming alarming amounts of these products, you should be OK. It’s always a good idea to check with your physician if you have specific concerns.

“Our advice always has been, No. 1, don’t panic because we’re looking at chronic exposure over the long-term for most consumers,” Rogers explains. “We’re not saying to go cold turkey on chocolate.”

Today reached out to the household-brand Nestlé for comment and a spokesperson said, “Our chocolate and cocoa products are safe to eat.” Target also commented: “At Target, we’re committed to providing high-quality, safe products for our guests. The products in this report meet all federal product safety requirements.” Note: There are no federal restrictions for the amount of cadmium and lead that foods contain.

Here is the list of products that contained lower amounts of heavy metals:

  • Sam’s Choice Dark Chocolate 72% Cocoa

  • Lindt Classic Recipe Milk Chocolate Bar

  • Ghirardelli Premium Baking Bittersweet Chocolate Chips 60% Cacao

  • Nestlé Toll House Semi-Sweet Morsels

  • Navitas Organics Organic Cocoa Powder

  • Nestlé Toll House 100% Pure Cocoa

  • Ghirardelli Premium Hot Cocoa Mix

  • Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa

  • Betty Crocker Fudge Brownie Mix

  • Great Value Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake Mix

Judit Marsillach, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington School of Public Health, also commented on the study and says she was “surprised” by their findings.

“I don’t want (people) to be alarmed,” Marsillach added, “but I do want them to be well-informed to make good decisions.”