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The old fallback of ‘dark chocolate is good for you’ might not be accurate after all. It turns out that all chocolate is not created equal, but knowing exactly what is in your favorite chocolate bar is a little complicated.

As You Sow, a consumer health protection organization, tested 50 chocolate products and found 35 of the 50 to contain lead and cadmium amounts above the safe harbor threshold of California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.

Products tested included chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs, popular among children. Eleanne van Vliet, an environmental health consultant to As You Sow, said lead exposure is associated with a number of health risks.

“Lead exposure is associated with neurological impairment, such as learning disabilities and decreased IQ, even at very low levels. In fact, there is no safe level of lead for children,” van Vliet said in a press release.

Hershey’s, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s…

The product testing was conducted at independent laboratories by As You Sow, and the organization has filed legal notices against chocolate manufacturers. Manufacturers included Hershey’s, Ghirardelli, Kraft, Mars, Lindt, Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Cadbury, Godiva and more.

Cadmium has also been associated with significant health risks, such as damage to internal organs like the kidneys and liver as well as the bones. Animal studies have tied cadmium exposure to a decreased birth weight, neurological issues and reproductive problems, while lead contamination is still a problem today, seen with the water quality in Flint, Michigan.

“As underscored by the Flint disaster, humans have contaminated our environment with lead, and now we must do everything in our power to protect ourselves and our children, who are the most vulnerable of us, from every possible exposure,” said Sean Palfrey, a pediatrician and professor of pediatrics and public health at Boston University School of Medicine. “Young children and pregnant women especially should avoid exposure to lead.”

Products Containing Cadmium

Products containing both cadmium and lead included 26 products from the following companies: Ritter Sport, Endangered Species Chocolate, Equal Exchange, Ghirardelli, Godiva, Hershey, Kraft, Lake Champlain, Lindt, Mars, Mondelez, Newman’s Own Organics, See’s Candies, Taza Chocolate, Kroger’s, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Most of the products containing both cadmium and lead were dark chocolate products, with varying cacao percentages ranging from 56 to 100 percent cacao.

Chocolate Products Containing Lead

lead in chocolateProducts with lead included 19 products from the following companies: Cadbury, Creative Natural Products, Endangered Species Chocolate, Godiva, Hershey, Moonstruck Chocolate, Trader Joe’s and Vosges. The lead-contaminated products were a variety of sweets from toffee bars to nibs, with different cacao and cocoa percentages.

Sweets that were found to have cadmium levels were the smallest group, with 7 products from the following companies: Earth Circle Goods, Ghirardelli, Hershey, Mars, Taza Chocolate and Theo Chocolate.

All of the products were either labelled organic or dark chocolate.

“Lead and cadmium accumulate in the body, so avoiding exposure is important, especially for children,” said Danielle Fugere, As You Sow’s president. “Our goal is to work with chocolate manufacturers to find ways to avoid these metals in their products.”

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