Consumer Reports found dangerous heavy metals in chocolate from Hershey’s, Theo, Trader Joe’s and other popular brands. Here are the ones that had the most, and some that are safer.
Photo Illustration: Melissa Paterno Plonchak/Consumer Reports, Getty Images
For many of us, chocolate is more than just a tasty treat. It’s a mood lifter, an energy booster, a reward after a tough day, a favorite holiday gift.
People also choose dark chocolate in particular for its potential health benefits, thanks to studies that suggest its rich supply of antioxidants may improve heart health and other conditions, and for its relatively low levels of sugar. In fact, more than half of people in a recent survey from the National Confectioners Association described dark chocolate as a “better for you” candy.
But there’s a dark side to this “healthier” chocolate. Research has found that some dark chocolate bars contain cadmium and lead—two heavy metals linked to a host of health problems in children and adults.
The chocolate industry has been grappling with ways to lower those levels. To see how much of a risk these favorite treats pose, Consumer Reports scientists recently measured the amount of heavy metals in 28 dark chocolate bars. They detected cadmium and lead in all of them.
Heavy Metals in Dark Chocolate
CR tested a mix of brands, including smaller ones, such as Alter Eco and Mast, and more familiar ones, like Dove and Ghirardelli.
For 23 of the bars, eating just an ounce a day would put an adult over a level that public health authorities and CR’s experts say may be harmful for at least one of those heavy metals. Five of the bars were above those levels for both cadmium and lead.
That’s risky stuff: 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 women 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.
CR’s Chocolate Test Results
Organic Dark Chocolate
Organic Deliciously Dark Chocolate
Intense Dark Chocolate
Intense Dark Chocolate Twilight Delight
Abinao Dark Chocolate
High in Both Lead & Cadmium
Organic Pure Dark
The Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate
Organic Extra Dark Pure Dark Chocolate
Extremely Dark Chocolate
Green & Black’s
Organic Dark Chocolate
Better Ways to Eat Dark Chocolate
Choose dark chocolates with the lowest levels of heavy metals
Treat chocolate as a treat
Try dark chocolates with lower cacao percentages
Alternate with milk chocolate
Don’t assume organic dark chocolates are safer
Don’t give kids much dark chocolate