Dangit. All our chocolate is slowly killing us. At least that’s what the advocacy group As You Sow seems to think. The group recently released the results of a survey it did, “showing that 35 of 50 chocolate products tested... expose consumers to lead and cadmium above levels set by California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act.”
And, as a result of the survey, it has, “filed legal notices against chocolate manufacturers, including Trader Joe's, Hershey's, Green and Black's, Lindt, Whole Foods, Kroger, Godiva, See's Candies, Mars, Theo Chocolate, Equal Exchange, Ghirardelli, Earth Circle Organics, and more, for failure to warn of lead and/or cadmium in their chocolate products.”
So basically we’re all going to die.
Look, I’m not supporting lead. I’m not like a member of a pro-lead group on Facebook or anything. But we do need some restraint here.
First, for what it’s worth, lead and cadmium level limits are lower in California than they are federally.
Plus, we are seriously talking about minute levels here.
As CNN reports, “When it comes specifically to chocolate, FDA regulations say no more than .1 parts per million of lead in a piece of chocolate. If you broke up a candy bar into a million pieces, just one-tenth of one those million pieces could be lead. For that candy bar to meet California standards, you would start out with much smaller candy bar — one it equal to 5 grams, rather than the average 50 grams — and break it up the same way.”
But I mean, still, lead and cadmium are bad. I get that.
And if these chocolates did exceed the state limits the manufacturers who make them should work to fix that. The thing is, chocolate comes from cocoa pods, and cocoa pods naturally have certain minerals in them.
As Hershey explains, “Consumers can rest assured that our products are safe, and that our industry adheres to all government regulations. All foods that are grown in nature contain small amounts of elements/minerals, such as cadmium and lead, which occur naturally in all soils because they are found in the Earth’s crust.”
And, as Chocolove told CNN, "The types and amounts of elements in a food product can come from soil and the natural growing of the plant or from food processing. There is a significant distinction between natural occurring components of the soil and the plant being in food, versus contamination added by incorrect food contact surfaces adding elements to the food."
While, Earth Circle Foods, said in the same CNN story, "We're involved in discussions with As You Sow, we dispute these claims. We have a testing program in place and we believe that this product is safe."
So basically, the companies are claiming the the lead was probably put in the chocolate by nature, and since people have been eating nature-grown chocolate for centuries, I think we’re going to be all right.
“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other health authorities have determined that small amounts of naturally occurring minerals in foods are unavoidable and do not present a public health risk or need for warnings,” Hershey says. “In 2013 the UN Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods determined that the “total cadmium dietary exposure for high consumers of cocoa and cocoa products was likely to be overestimated and did not consider it to be of concern.”
Of course, these days people hear the word lead, and they can’t help but think of the tragic situation in Flint, Michigan. However, Hershey says that’s not even close to a fair comparison.
“The trace levels of lead and cadmium in chocolate are minute and not anywhere near the lead levels found in drinking water in Flint, Michigan,” Hershey says. “ Any comparison between the two situations is disingenuous and trivializes the very serious issues faced by Flint’s residents.”
So in the end, yes that Hershey’s bar you’re grabbing at the checkout probably has minute levels of lead in it. But, it’s important to keep perspective, and know that your chocolate is likely exactly as nature intended it to be.