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Study suggests ways to reduce cadmium and lead in chocolates

A new report published recently by the US National Confectioners Association in cooperation with the non-profit organization As You Sow provides recommendations on how to mitigate the level of cadmium and lead in cocoa and chocolate.

Between 2014 and 2017, As You Sow performed tests on various chocolate products for the presence of cadmium and lead. The results show that numerous chocolate products have high levels of cadmium and lead, which might lead to exposure levels that are greater than the Proposition 65 Maximum Allowable Dose Levels (MADLs). Following that finding, since 2018, an interdisciplinary committee has been investigating the root causes of such high levels as well as feasible measures to reduce the presence of cadmium and lead in these products.  

The research finds that soil is one of the major sources of cadmium in cocoa beans, which occurs through direct uptake of cadmium by the cocoa tree during the pre-harvest stage. The short-term solution is blending low and high cadmium cocoa beans to reduce consumers’ exposure to the toxic element from cocoa-based products. In the long run, it is required to change the soil composition and cocoa genetics. However, the cost of heavy metal remediation of the soil is often too high for average cocoa farmers. Thus, the researchers suggest a cheaper method which is using lime to “brings down the acidity, making cadmium less soluble and less likely to be taken up by plants”.  

Regarding lead, nearly all lead in commercial cocoa beans is from post-harvest contamination, coming from environmental sources of dust and soil that contaminate the wet shells. Therefore, the researchers suggest that the avoidance of soil and dust contact during fermentation and drying could be the most effective means to prevent lead contamination in cocoa products.   


Full study: Expert Investigation Related to Cocoa and Chocolate Products