A new study by Consumer Reports published on Wednesday claims to have found high amounts of heavy metals in some popular chocolate products.
Tests were conducted on 48 different types of products that contain cocoa, including dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and cocoa powder, among others. Every product tested had “detectable amounts of lead and cadmium,” according to the study. Researchers analyzed different brands, including Hershey, Nestlé, and Ghirardelli.
The researchers chose to measure metal levels using California’s standard because it was “the most protective available.”
Cadmium is a soft and naturally occurring heavy metal that can be absorbed by plants and animals that people eat. It can cause a multitude of negative health outcomes, even when consumed in low amounts.
“Exposure to low levels of cadmium in air, food, water, and particularly in tobacco smoke over time may build up cadmium in the kidneys and cause kidney disease and fragile bones,” said the CDC on its website. “Cadmium is considered a cancer-causing agent.”
Lead is another naturally occurring heavy metal that health experts recognize as a hazard to human health. The CDC says there is no safe blood lead level for children and that even low amounts can result in developmental issues.
Over a third of the products tested allegedly had high levels of both lead and cadmium, with a “concerning” amount of lead being found in Hershey products.
Dark chocolate products reportedly had higher levels of lead and cadmium than milk chocolate products.
“Sixteen of the 48 products had amounts above [Consumer Reports’] levels of concern for at least one of the heavy metals — in some cases more than twice our limit — but we did find safer options in each category of chocolate products,” said James E. Rogers, director and acting head of product safety testing at Consumer Reports, according to the study.
The Food and Drug Administration maintains that chocolate is still safe to consume because the levels of heavy metal exposure are “minor,” according to the study.
“Chocolate and cocoa are safe to eat and can be enjoyed as treats, as they have been for centuries,” said Christopher Gindlesperger, senior vice president of public affairs and communications for the National Confectioners Association, per Consumer Reports. “Food safety and product quality remain our highest priorities, and we remain dedicated to being transparent and socially responsible.”
The study claimed that chocolate producers, particularly Hershey, could stand to refine their manufacturing practices to reduce the levels of lead and cadmium in their products.
Researchers recommended that children and pregnant women consume dark chocolate “sparingly” due to the alleged dangers posed by the metals.