USAA recent study by researchers from Tulane University has brought new insights into the levels and risks of toxic heavy metals in chocolates sold in the United States.

The study, which assessed 155 chocolate samples from various global regions, revealed that nearly all chocolate samples contained toxic heavy metals below the recommended safe levels. However, the levels of certain metals varied depending on the origins of the cocoa beans used in the chocolates.

The presence of contaminants in cacao-derived products, such as chocolates, has been a global health concern.

In 2022 and 2023, Consumer Reports highlighted the concerning presence of cadmium and lead in chocolates and cocoa-containing products.

Despite these findings, Tulane researchers indicate that consuming an ounce of dark chocolate daily poses no health concern for adults, with only minor concern for children’s exposure to cadmium.

To explore the extent to which toxic heavy metals in chocolates pose a health risk to U.S. consumers, the Tulane researchers collected chocolate samples from brick-and-mortar national supermarkets and online retailers.

The samples represented brands including Alter Eco, Beyond Good, Blanxart, Chuao, Dick and Taylor, Dove, Endangered Species, Ghirardelli, Hershey, Ki’Xocolatl, Lindt, Lily’s, Marou, Napolitains, Pralus Pyramid, Taza, and Theo.

The provenance of cacao for the chocolate samples was categorized into five major regions: West Africa, South America, Asia Pacific, Central America, and East Africa, with some mixed-origin samples and a few with unknown origins.

The potential non-carcinogenic risk of long-term exposure to contaminants, including cadmium, lead, nickel, arsenic, and uranium, was determined using the hazard quotient (HQ) or hazard index (HI), proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Toxic metal intakes were estimated assuming daily chocolate consumption of one ounce.

Detailed analysis of toxic metals

Analysis showed that dark chocolates with 50 percent or more cocoa content sourced from Central and South America exhibited the highest mean levels of cadmium. South American samples also contained elevated lead levels.

Conversely, samples from West Africa and Asia had lower levels of cadmium and lead, respectively. Higher cacao contents were strongly associated with cadmium and nickel levels and moderately associated with arsenic.

Weak associations of cocoa content with lead and uranium suggest post-harvest contamination rather than contamination during cultivation.

For all the latest food safety news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.