Why you shouldn't be worried about cadmium & lead in our chocolate
We are aware that there has been some press coverage about this recently after an alarmist American Consumers Report was published about some big American & global chocolate brands containing higher levels of cadmium & lead than California's recommended daily amounts for such metals. It made it sound as if the presence of these elements is an issue unique to chocolate and that the chocolate was somehow contaminated.
The first thing to say is that whilst heavy metals sound scary, they are naturally occuring and are found in many foods that are consumed much more frequently than dark chocolate.
Secondly, all our cocoa is tested regularly by our producer partners and complies with European & UK food safety laws relating to the levels of cadmium and lead that can be permitted in chocolate (EC regulation 1881/2006 to be precise).
For the UK, the permitted levels are between 0.1 mg/kg - 0.8mg/kg (note that is milligram not gram and per KILO, so we are talking about very, very, very small amounts for the amount you would eat at any one time). For example, our cocoa from Ecuador (for our 72% & 100% grades) was recently tested at 0.35 mg/kg - less than half of the maximum allowed.
If you delve further into the EC regulations on cadmium, you will find this statement about the different sources of cadmium exposure amongst different ages of consumers in the EU. You may be surprised by the foodstuffs that are major contributors to exposure and you will note that chocolate does not feature as one of the major contributors:
'In a refined exposure assessment carried out by EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority) in its scientific report on ‘Cadmium dietary exposure in the European population’ using the new Comprehensive Food Consumption database which contains updated information on food consumption figures for the different Member States and for different age groups of the population, more detailed information on the particular food commodities that contribute to exposure are given by age group. For adults, starchy roots and tubers, grains and grain based products and vegetables and vegetable products are major contributors to exposure. For children and adolescents, starchy roots and tubers, grain and grain based products and sugar and confectionary are main contributors to exposure, while for infants and toddlers it is starchy roots and tubers, grains and grain based products, vegetables and vegetable based products, milk and dairy products and foods for infants and small children that contribute most. The refined exposure assessment shows that overall exposure is the result of not only a few main contributors but the addition of contributions of a number of different food groups.'
It is not the fault of the chocolate (or any other food for that matter) if there is any present as these metals are found in the soil at origin which the cocoa tree will absorb naturally. This can be natural as, for example, volcanic areas tend to have more cadmium in the soil. These metals are certainly not added at any point in the processing of cocoa beans into chocolate!
The chocolate journalist, who reports on a very wide variety of issues in the world of chocolate also covered this very subject in one of her excellent blogs in December 2022. Here is an extract for you:
"A study conducted in 2018 on 12,500 consumers in the US concluded that: "the food groups that contributed most to cadmium intake were cereals and bread (34%), leafy vegetables (20%), potatoes (11%), legumes and nuts (7%) and stem/root vegetables (6%) with the category of sweets & sugar coming second to last after drinking water. Before freaking out about dark chocolate, you should freak out about 90% of your daily food first".
As the chocolate journalist also says, "Eating foods with heavy metals, breathing dust and diseases and living in constant pollution is an integral part of the human existance now. So heavy metals in chocolate is one of the things where you either decide to get paranoid about or simply don't care about because, in the grand scheme of things, there are way worse things for your health."