Pressure mounts for Hershey to reduce heavy metals in dark chocolate

Cris Collingwood//May 26, 2023

Pressure mounts for Hershey to reduce heavy metals in dark chocolate

Cris Collingwood//May 26, 2023

More than 75,000 consumers have signed a Consumer Reports petition calling on the Hershey Company to reduce the level of heavy metals in its dark chocolate products. 

Consumer Reports (CR), on its website, said it delivered another batch of petition signatures, saying dark chocolate bars carrying the Hershey’s name or marketed by companies owned by the Hershey Company were among those that had the highest levels of lead or cadmium in recent tests conducted by CR. 

 In March, Hershey’s CFO told Reuters that the company “continue[s] to look for opportunities” to reduce levels of heavy metals in its dark chocolate, but no firm commitments have been announced. 

“Dark chocolate lovers are understandably alarmed that some of Hershey’s bars had particularly high levels of lead and cadmium in CR’s tests,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy for Consumer Reports. “The good news is that some of the brands we tested had lower levels of heavy metals, so we know it’s possible to make dark chocolate products that are safer for consumers. As a leading and popular brand of chocolate, we urge Hershey’s to make a firm commitment to get dangerous heavy metals out of its dark chocolate bars.” 

Consumer Reports scientists measured the amount of heavy metals in 28 dark chocolate bars and detected cadmium and lead in all of them. According to CR. For 23 of the bars, eating just one ounce a day would put an adult over a level that public health authorities and CR’s experts say may be harmful for at least one of those heavy metals. 

CR found that Lily’s Extremely Dark Chocolate 85% cocoa, which is owned by Hershey’s, was among five bars it tested that had high levels of both lead and cadmium.  

Hershey’s Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate had the highest level of lead of any of the bars tested by Consumer Reports. The Scharffen Berger Extra Dark Chocolate 82% Cacao bar, owned by Hershey’s, was one of the bars with the highest levels of cadmium in CR’s tests. 

While most of the chocolate bars in CR’s test had concerning levels of lead or cadmium, five of them were relatively low in both: Mast Organic Dark Chocolate 80% Cocoa, Ghiradelli Intense Dark Chocolate Twilight Delight 72% Cacao, Ghiradelli Intense Dark Chocolate 86% Cacao, Taza Chocolate Organic Deliciously Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao, and Valrhona Abinao Dark Chocolate 85% Cacao. 

Consistent, long-term exposure to even small amounts of heavy metals can lead to a variety of health problems. CR said the danger is greatest for pregnant people and young children because the metals can cause developmental problems, affect brain development, and lead to lower IQ. 

Frequent exposure to lead in adults, for example, can lead to nervous system problems, hypertension, immune system suppression, kidney damage, and reproductive issues, CR said. 

 While most people don’t eat chocolate every day, 15% do, according to the market research firm Mintel. Even for non-frequent chocolate consumers, lead and cadmium can still be a concern.