A recent investigation by Consumer Reports, a respected non-profit consumer advocacy group, has exposed disturbingly high levels of lead and cadmium in one-third of chocolate products.
These findings have ignited concerns within the chocolate industry and among consumers, prompting calls for action.
Consumer Reports has specifically called upon Hershey, one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the United States, to take immediate steps in reducing the presence of lead and cadmium in its products.
This appeal comes as a response to the discovery of excessive heavy metal content in several popular chocolate offerings.
Serious health risks
The study's results emphasize the serious health risks associated with long-term exposure to lead and cadmium, including potential nervous system issues, immune system suppression, and kidney damage. These risks are particularly alarming for pregnant women and young children, making the need for action all the more urgent.
US FDA response
While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains that chocolate is a "minor source of exposure" to lead and cadmium on an international scale, they underline that manufacturers and processors bear the responsibility of ensuring the safety of their food products. This raises questions about the measures in place to protect consumers from heavy metal exposure.
Consumer advocacy group
This recent study follows a previous report by Consumer Reports from December of the previous year, which found excessive lead or cadmium in 23 out of 28 tested dark chocolate bars.
This prompted Brian Ronholm, the food policy director at Consumer Reports, to urge Hershey, as a "leading and popular brand," to make its chocolate safer. A petition has been launched to press Hershey to reduce heavy metals in its chocolate products, supported by a significant number of concerned consumers.
As a response to these alarming findings, Hershey's Chief Financial Officer, Steve Voskuil, stated that the company is actively working to reduce lead and cadmium levels in its products. The company acknowledges that these metals can naturally occur in soil and find their way into chocolate products, but expresses a strong desire to eliminate them completely.
The National Confectioners Association, speaking on behalf of Hershey, has reassured consumers that "chocolate and cocoa are safe to eat and can be enjoyed as treats as they have been for centuries." Nevertheless, the study's findings have heightened concerns about the safety of chocolate products, especially for vulnerable populations, underscoring the need for greater transparency and industry-wide action to address these risks.