Many chocolate products contain worrying levels of lead or other heavy metals, Consumer Reports says

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With Halloween just around the corner, Consumer Reports has some scary news to relay about many treats typically found in trick-or-treat bags, as well as in the kitchen cupboard. 

From cocoa powder to brownie mixes, the consumer advocacy group found “concerning” levels of lead or cadmium in a third of the chocolate products it tested. Consumer Report coupled its report with a call on Hershey Co., the largest purveyor of chocolate in the U.S., to step up its efforts to reduce the level of toxic metals in its chocolate.

“Our tests have found that other brands have succeeded in producing chocolate products with lower levels of heavy metals that are safer for consumers,” Brian Ronholm, CR’s director of food policy, said in a statement on Consumer Reports’ findings. “As a leading and popular brand, it’s time for Hershey’s to make a firm, time-bound commitment to get dangerous levels of heavy metals out of its chocolate products.”  

Following up on findings of potentially dangerous amounts of heavy metals in some brands of dark chocolate last last year, scientists at the nonprofit advocacy organization ran new tests on other kinds of chocolates and food items made with the ingredient. The products tested included dark chocolate bars, milk chocolate bars, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and mixes for hot cocoa, brownies and chocolate cake.

Detectable amounts of lead and cadmium were detected in all 48 products tested, and 16 contained concerning levels for one of both of the heavy metals, according to the results released on Wednesday.


The bittersweet reality behind chocolate

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Long-term exposure to even small amounts of heavy metals can result in health problems such as brain development in young children, according to health experts.

How best to reduce heavy metals in chocolate is an industrywide question pertinent to all brands, not just Hershey, a spokesperson for the candy maker told CBS MoneyWatch in an email, while deferring further comment to the National Confectioners Association.

“Chocolate and cocoa are safe to eat and can be enjoyed as treats as they have been for centuries. Food safety and product quality remain our highest priorities and we remain dedicated to being transparent and socially responsible,” the trade group said in an emailed statement.



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