Research reveals ways to reduce lead and cadmium in chocolate


The chocolate industry and As You Sow publish a three-year collaborative study.

BERKELEY, Calif.—A new report published today by as you sow and the National Confectioners Association is the result of a three-year effort by a multidisciplinary group of four experts concerning the sources of lead and cadmium in cocoa and chocolate and how levels can be reduced in the future. The expertise was financed by a California Proposition 65 Regulations reached between as you sow and 32 confectionery industry members in 2018.

as you sow The mission is to promote corporate environmental and social responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building and innovative legal strategies. as you sow The environmental health program promotes corporate responsibility to ensure safe and sustainable food, agricultural and consumer products.

Food safety and product quality are top priorities for the chocolate industry and member companies of the National Confectioners Association remain committed to maintaining high standards and striving for continuous improvement in this regard.

The expert report concludes that cadmium can be found in cocoa and chocolate due to its presence in soils, either through natural or artificial sources, where cocoa is grown and harvested in the tropics. Cocoa plants absorb cadmium from the soil via their roots and deposit it in the nibs (center) of the cocoa beans. Reducing cadmium levels without compromising taste characteristics will require mixing low- and high-cadmium beans in the short term and changing soil composition or cocoa genetics over time, especially in regions with low cadmium content. America and the Caribbean where fine flavored cocoa is grown and cadmium levels in soils tend to be higher.

In contrast, lead is not absorbed 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. The beans are naturally coated in a sticky cocoa pulp called “baba” or “mucilage” which allows lead to cling to the beans as they ferment and air-dry in the tropical countries where they are grown. 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.

Based on their findings (see pages 17-18 of the report), the experts identified and prioritized a list of recommended cadmium and lead reduction measures that industry should consider implementing. Significant lead reductions can be expected within the first year of implementing new handling practices. Cadmium reductions beyond those achieved through blending and potential changes in agricultural practices, including soil treatment and planting of new trees, will take longer. Industry members plan to continue working with as you sowcocoa farmers, scientists and their own quality teams to further reduce cadmium and lead levels in chocolate products, where possible.

Photo by Samer Daboul from Pexels

“The research carried out by this expert committee is important in revealing feasible methods of reducing both lead and cadmium in finished chocolate products,” said Danielle FugerePresident and Chief Counsel of 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, commented: “The NCA and its chocolate industry members welcome the report resulting from the expert panel investigation they funded as part of a California 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.

as you sow is the nation’s leading not-for-profit shareholder advocacy organization, with a 30-year track record in promoting corporate environmental and social responsibility and promoting values-aligned investments. His areas of interest include climate change, ocean plastics, pesticides, racial justice, workplace diversity and executive compensation. Click on here for as you sow tool for monitoring shareholder resolutions.

National Association of Confectioners is the primary trade organization for the US confectionery industry, which generates more than $37 billion in retail sales each year. Making chocolate, candies, gum and mints, the industry employs nearly 58,000 workers at more than 1,600 manufacturing plants in all 50 states. NCA advocates for an environment that allows confectioners to thrive and ensures that chocolate and candy are celebrated for their contributions to culture, society, the economy, and everyday moments of joy.


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