Thousands of customers flock to Trader Joe’s, largely because of its wide range of grocery options, affordable prices — and the nearly endless selection of snacks.
And while you may think grabbing a dark chocolate bar off of the shelf is the healthier option, a recent Consumer Reports (CR) study shows that those chocolate bars may actually expose you to harmful chemicals like lead and cadmium.
For the study, CR tested 28 dark chocolate bars, which are commonly suggested for their heart health benefits, to measure the levels of heavy metals. Lead and cadmium were detected in all of the products.
To determine which chocolates posed the most risk, CR used California’s maximum allowable dose level (MADL) for lead and cadmium as a base. Any product with a percentage over 100% for either chemical exceeds the MADL.
Some Trader Joe’s favorites were on the list of products that the study found to have high levels of those chemicals.
- Trader Joe’s: Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao (192% of the lead MADL) and The Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate 85% Cacao (127% of the lead MADL, 229% of the cadmium MADL)
- Hershey’s: Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate (265% of the lead MADL)
- Lindt: Excellence Dark Chocolate
85% Cocoa (166% of the lead MADL) and Excellence Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa (116% of the cadmium MADL)
- Godiva: Signature Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao (146% of the lead MADL)
- Dove: Promises Deeper Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao (112% of the cadmium MADL)
Low-level lead exposure can have severe impacts on children’s cognitive abilities, according to Dr. Fred Henretig, senior toxicologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
And being exposed to high levels of lead may cause weakness, anemia and kidney or brain damage, affecting children more than adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additionally, “when eaten, large amounts of cadmium can severely irritate the stomach and cause vomiting and diarrhea,” the agency says.
Several lawsuits have been filed against a few of the brands, including Trader Joe’s and Hershey’s – with consumers claiming they were misled and put in danger due to the products’ heavy metal content.
Alter Eco, Endangered Species, Theo, and Trader Joe’s did not respond to the report from Consumer Reports
The results of the Consumer Reports study do show that while the presence of heavy metals in dark chocolate is common, it is not always at the levels that pose the most risk.
For example, brands like Taza Chocolate and Ghiradelli are listed in the study as “safe choices” because their levels of lead and cadmium fall below California’s MADL.
And while researchers continue to work on addressing the contamination, there are steps experts say you can take to enjoy a dark chocolate treat safely, like:
- reaching for dark chocolates that have low cacao percentages
- being mindful of your overall chocolate consumption
- eating a well-rounded diet
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