NCA-supported study suggests action against cadmium and lead in chocolate and cocoa


A key new report from environmental non-profit group As You Sow and the National Confectioners Association has put forward proposals to help reduce the levels of lead and cadmium found in cocoa and chocolate, reports Neill Barston.

The results of the study were based on the analysis of an intersectoral panel of four experts, the financing of its work being provided by a California Proposition 65 Regulations achieved with a total of 32 companies in the confectionery sector in 2018.

As noted by the National Confectioners Association, ensuring food safety and product quality are at the top of its core priorities with the US industry trade body and its members focused on continuous improvement in all areas. from production.

Therefore, engagement with As You Sow has proven essential, given the organization’s central mission to promote corporate environmental and social responsibility through collaborative working, including its health programs. promoting sustainable food, agriculture and consumer products.

Notably, the report recommended a series of actions and priorities that the industry should consider implementing – which it believed would yield tangible results within a year of implementation. For cadmium, actions beyond those achieved through blending and potential changes in agricultural practices, include treating soils and planting new trees, and are expected to take longer to produce results.

Additionally, the National Confectioners Association said industry members plan to continue working with as you sow, cocoa farmers, scientists and their own quality teams to further reduce cadmium and lead levels in chocolate products, where possible.

As previously noted by confectionery production, the issue of cadmium and lead levels in confectionery production has been raised in recent years, notably at the forum of the European Cocoa Association, where members expressed their concern about the impact of possible EU legislation on the issue. on the sector.

Cadmium levels

Additionally, the latest As You Sow Cadmium and Lead Collaborative Report explained that cadmium can be found in cocoa and chocolate due to its presence in soils, either through natural or artificial sources, where the cocoa is grown and harvested in the tropics.

Significantly, he recognized that cocoa plants absorb cadmium from soils via their roots and deposit it in the kernels (center) of cocoa beans, and therefore, the reduction in cadmium levels without compromising taste characteristics. will require a mix of low and high cadmium beans. short-term and changes in soil composition or cocoa genetics over time, particularly in regions of Latin America and the Caribbean where fine flavor cocoa is grown and soil cadmium levels have tend to be higher.

According to the report, however, lead is not taken up by the roots of cocoa plants. Instead, lead from many sources, including soil, dust and deposits from power plants around the world, adheres to the outer shells of cocoa beans after they are extracted from the pods.

Additionally, he added that the beans are naturally coated in a sticky cocoa pulp called “baba” or “mucilage” which allows the lead to cling to the beans while they are fermented and air-dried. in the tropical countries where they are cultivated. Experts have found that, where possible, minimizing ground contact and the potential for airborne deposition at these stages of the harvesting process, and maximizing contaminant removal during cleaning, roasting and removal of shells (as many chocolate manufacturers already do), should help reduce lead levels in finished products.

“The research performed by this expert panel is important in revealing feasible methods of reducing both lead and cadmium in finished chocolate products,” said Danielle Fugere, President and Chief Advisor at As you sow.

We appreciate the collaborative approach of the chocolate industry in funding this three-year study. It shows how California’s Toxic Enforcement Act can lead to positive change. We look forward to working with industry to set lower levels of cadmium and lead as we move into the implementation phase of this work. »

Christopher Gindlesperger, senior vice president of public affairs and communications at the National Confectioners Association, welcomed the study and its recommendations.

He said: ‘The NCA and its chocolate industry members welcome the report resulting from the expert panel investigation they funded as part of California’s Proposition 65 pre-settlement. with as you sow. We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively to implement actionable measures that ensure product quality and safety so consumers can continue to enjoy chocolate as a delicious treat.

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