How Much Lead Is In Your Favorite Chocolate? You Might Be Surprised

Bad news, chocolate lovers! A new report has emerged claiming that chocolate-producing companies have been less than forthcoming about the amounts of lead and cadmium in their products. It’s hard to believe the timing of this accusation was entirely accidental. Easter Sunday is right around the corner; it’s a time when many children (and adults) happily gorge themselves on a wide variety of chocolate bunnies, eggs, and the like.

The intended gluttony by Americans is concerning to As You Sow, the California-based consumer advocacy group that CNN writes is behind the surprising lead claim.

But just how much lead are we talking about?

According to a chart shared by As You Sow, many of the more popular chocolate candies in America contain either lead and cadmium or just lead. Manufacturers have responded to the group’s concerns by stating the substance is “naturally-occurring,” and something that’s “absorbed by the cacao plant.” These companies also claim there’s no reason to get excited about the presence of lead because it’s merely “trace amounts,” and therefore not exactly harmful.

As You Sow isn’t convinced. CNN reports the organization had “multiple samples of 50 different cocoa products analyzed by an independent lab.” It learned that “more than half [the samples] contained lead and cadmium levels above the state’s limits.” The state of California’s requirements are far more strict than federal guidelines.

In response to the findings, As You Sow wants companies like Ghirardelli, Godiva, Hershey, and Lindt to update their food labels to acknowledge the presence of these potentially dangerous substances.

As You Sow said,

“No level of lead is safe for children. Lead exposure has been a significant public health issue for decades. Lead is linked to a variety of neurological impairments, including learning disabilities, seizures, and a lower IQ. Developing fetuses and children are especially vulnerable to lead exposure because their brains are in critical growth and development stages.”

In addition to big names like Hershey and Ghirardelli, there were a couple of companies added to the group’s list that might be surprising. Whole Foods’ chocolates reportedly tested positive for both lead and cadmium and Endangered Species chocolates tested positive for lead.

In case you’re wondering, Cadbury — a company practically synonymous with Easter — was also flagged for lead content.

If this finding has you deeply concerned about lead content in the chocolate you’re eating, the next question will likely be, “Well, is there any chocolate out there that’s ‘lead-free’?” As You Sow seemed to have anticipated this request because beneath the list of naughty chocolate-making companies were those who passed the group’s lead and cadmium test.

According to As You Sow, chocolate made by Ferrero USA, Nestle, Whitman’s, and Russel Stover Candies were completely in the clear. It’s worth noting that some of the named and shamed companies above do have chocolate products that tested free of lead. It’s just that consumers will have to double-check to determine which of these manufacturers’ candies are lead- and cadmium-free.

Danielle Fugere, president of As You Sow, told CNN that her organization’s goal is “to work with chocolate manufacturers to find ways to avoid these metals in their products.” This may be extremely difficult; many manufacturers, as previously stated, insist they have nothing to do with the “trace amounts” of lead in their chocolate. They may also feel less than obligated to comply with one state’s specific guidelines. If they’re determined to be held to the less strict guidelines established by the federal government, As You Sow may be fighting a losing battle.

Do you think chocolate manufacturers are obligated to warn consumers about the lead in their food — even if their chocolate-making process isn’t to blame for the lead content itself? Share your thoughts below!

[AP Photo/Toby Talbot]