I’ve got some really bad news for you.
Are you sitting down?
You know that super-healthy, organic dark chocolate you’ve been eating? The stuff that you’ve convinced yourself is practically like taking a really good tasting vitamin every night?
There’s a REALLY good chance it’s got high levels of lead and/or cadmium (another dangerous heavy metal) in it.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a new independent study that tested a really wide range of chocolate brands found that nearly every bar of dark chocolate sampled contained levels of lead and/or cadmium that are much higher than what’s considered safe—we’re talking high enough to warrant a warning label under current government rules.
This is especially worrisome for pregnant women since lead exposure during pregnancy can interfere with fetal brain development and may lead to slowed reflexes, lower IQ, developmental disorders, and other markers of impaired neurological development in babies and children exposed to lead in the womb. Additionally, exposure to cadmium has been linked to liver, kidney, and bone damage. Children and babies (including those in utero) are most susceptible to this type heavy metal poisoning and even low levels of exposure have been shown to cause irreversible damage.
Researchers aren’t yet sure what’s causing the contamination, but since the highest levels of lead and cadmium were primarily found in the chocolates with the highest percentage of cocoa, it’s likely that the heavy metals are somehow finding their way into cocoa beans during growing or processing. Because of that, while you’re pregnant (or trying to conceive) I’d recommend avoiding any brand of dark chocolate not mentioned as safe in the study, as well as cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, and cacao until more testing has been done to find and eliminate the source of contamination. I’d also avoid giving your kids any of these products or those that contain them.
Two brands of dark chocolate that were found to be safe in the study were Endangered Species Natural Dark Chocolate (72% cocoa) and Ghiradelli Intense Dark Midnight Reverie (86% Cacao). An insane number (including products made by Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Green and Black, Hershey’s, See’s, Theo, Mars, Lindt, Godiva, and even others made by Ghiradelli) contained unsafe levels of heavy metals. For a full list of tested brands and the type of contamination found, click here.