Yo, hold up before you start gobbling down all that dark chocolate you got for the holidays! A recent report by Consumer Reports found that a bunch of popular brands, like Hershey’s, Godiva, and Trader Joe’s, contain unhealthy amounts of heavy metals like lead and cadmium. In fact, the report found that just one ounce of 23 of the 28 dark chocolate bars they tested would be enough to put an adult over the recommended limit of these heavy metals. And get this, around 15% of people eat chocolate every day! Plus, pregnant folks and kids are especially at risk of heavy metal exposure, which can seriously mess with their development and cause lasting brain damage. And if you add in the heavy metals from other foods, like your veggies, it’s easy to end up with dangerous levels in your body, even if you don’t eat chocolate all the time.
Not all chocolate is bad, though
But it’s not all bad news. Five of the bars had relatively low levels of heavy metals. And among those “safer” choices, Ghirardelli was the top brand. But brands like Lindt, Dove, Godiva, Trader Joe’s, and Hershey’s all had bars with high levels of lead, cadmium, or both.
Why is it that dark chocolate has higher levels of heavy metals than milk chocolate? It’s complicated, but it seems to be because dark chocolate has more cacao, the bean that chocolate is made from. A toxicologist and former California Department of Public Health official named Michael J. DiBartolomeis led a study on cacao contamination in 2022 and said it looks like lead gets into cacao beans after they’re harvested and left to dry in the sun, and dirt and dust with lead falls on the beans. As for cadmium, it seems like the cacao plants get it from the soil.