A three year collaborative study between As You Sow and the National Confectioners Association (NCA) was recently released, led by a panel of four experts investigating the sources of lead and cadmium in cocoa and chocolate and how these levels may be reduced in the future.
As You Sow, a non-profit foundation, strives to promote environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building and innovative legal strategies. Its environmental health program promotes corporate accountability in order to ensure safe and sustainable food, agriculture and consumer products.
Food safety and product quality remain the chocolate industry’s highest priorities and NCA member companies are committed to upholding high standards and striving for continuous improvement.
The report has concluded that cadmium, which can be found in cocoa or chocolate, is due to its presence in soils either through natural or man-made sources where chocolate is grown and harvested in the tropics. Cadmium is taken up by cocoa plants from soils via their roots which are then deposited in the centre of cocoa beans. In order to reduce cadmium levels without compromising the taste, will require blending low and high cadmium beans in the short term and changes to soil composition or cocoa genetics in the long term.
Lead is not taken up through the roots of cocoa plants but instead comes from multiple sources including soil, dust and deposition from power plants around the world. Beans are naturally coated with a sticky cacao pulp, ‘baba or ‘mucilage’ which allows lead to cling to the beans while they are fermented and dried where they are grown. Experts found that where possible, minimising soil contact and potential for aerial deposition at these stages of the harvesting process and contaminant removal during bean cleaning, roasting and shell removal should help reduce lead levels.
Based on these findings, the experts have identified and prioritised a list of recommended cadmium and lead reduction measures for the industry to consider implementing. By implementing new handling practices can help reduce lead significantly, whereas cadmium reductions will take longer, requiring potential changes in farming practices such as soil treatment and planting new tree stock.
“The research completed by this expert committee is important in revealing feasible methods of reducing both lead and cadmium in finished chocolate products,” said Danielle Fugere, President and Chief Counsel at As You Sow. “We appreciate the collaborative approach of the chocolate industry in funding this three-year study. It shows how California’s Toxic Enforcement Act can lead to positive change.”
“NCA and its members in the chocolate industry welcome the report resulting from the expert committee investigation they funded through a prior California Proposition 65 settlement with As You Sow,” said Christopher Gindlesperger, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications at NCA. “We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively to implement feasible measures that assure product quality and safety so that consumers can continue to enjoy chocolate as a delicious treat.”
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