·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Health & Medicine

Some Hot Cocoa Products Found to Have Toxic Metals

— January 29, 2024

Many cocoa products contain harmful metals, researchers warn.

As winter temperatures plummet, the allure of a steaming cup of hot cocoa becomes irresistible. However, recent research by Consumer Reports, published in October, issues a cautionary note: certain hot cocoa products may harbor elevated levels of toxic metals, posing potential health risks.

Consumer Reports undertook comprehensive food safety tests, scrutinizing lead and cadmium levels in various chocolate products, including popular hot chocolate mixes. Lead, a neurotoxin with detrimental effects, particularly in children, and cadmium, a mineral commonly used in batteries, known to cause gastrointestinal issues, were the focal points of the investigation.

In the absence of federal limits on lead and cadmium in food, Consumer Reports adopted California’s standards, setting the maximum allowable dose levels at 0.5 micrograms per day for lead and 4.1 micrograms per day for cadmium.

The research conducted by Consumer Reports brings attention to the potential dangers associated with lead and cadmium in cocoa products. Lead, a well-known neurotoxin, can have severe consequences on brain functions, particularly in children. The absence of federal limits for these heavy metals in food showcases the need for heightened awareness and scrutiny.

Lead exposure, even in small amounts, has been linked to developmental issues, cognitive impairments, and behavioral problems, making it imperative to address its presence in everyday consumables. Cadmium, commonly used in batteries, may not only irritate the stomach but also poses long-term health risks, emphasizing the importance of monitoring its levels in food products.

Some Hot Cocoa Products Found to Have Toxic Metals
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Consumer Reports utilized California’s standards as a benchmark for evaluating lead and cadmium levels. With a maximum allowable dose of 0.5 micrograms per day for lead and 4.1 micrograms per day for cadmium, these standards provide a reference point for assessing the safety of cocoa products. This approach highlights the need for consistent and enforceable federal standards to safeguard consumers nationwide.

The findings of the study spotlight popular hot chocolate mixes, revealing disparities in lead levels among different brands. Great Value’s milk chocolate-flavored mix emerged as a significant outlier, exceeding the lead limit by an alarming 345%. Nestle, Starbucks, and Trader Joe’s also surpassed Consumer Reports’ recommended daily allowance, prompting a closer look at ingredient sourcing and manufacturing processes within the cocoa industry.

Among concerns about lead and cadmium levels, the study identified Ghirardelli and Swiss Miss hot chocolate mixes as safer choices for consumers. Their adherence to the set maximum limits indicates a potential avenue for industry best practices. As consumers peruse the chocolate aisle, this information becomes critical, allowing them to make informed choices for their well-being.

Among the six hot chocolate mixes subjected to testing, four exceeded Consumer Reports’ lead limit. Notably, Great Value’s milk chocolate-flavored mix surpassed the limit by a staggering 345%. Other popular brands, including Nestle (108%), Starbucks (159%), and Trader Joe’s (112%), also exceeded the recommended daily allowance as per Consumer Reports. In contrast, Ghirardelli and Swiss Miss hot chocolate mixes emerged as safer options, with lead and cadmium levels falling below the set maximum limits.

While the focus has primarily been on hot chocolate mixes, the study uncovers a less-explored area – dark chocolate bars. Two products in this category surpassed the maximum daily allowance for cadmium, raising questions about the broader spectrum of cocoa-based products. This discovery prompts a broader conversation about the prevalence of heavy metals in various chocolate offerings beyond the temptation of hot cocoa.

As the winter season calls for indulgence in comforting treats, understanding the nuances of lead and cadmium in cocoa products becomes paramount. Consumer Reports’ research acts as a catalyst for heightened awareness, emphasizing the need for industry accountability and comprehensive regulatory measures to ensure the safety of our favorite winter delights.


Craving hot chocolate? Some cocoa products are high in toxic metals, study shows

A Third of Chocolate Products Are High in Heavy Metals, CR’s Tests Find

Cadmium Factsheet

Join the conversation!