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Lead and Cadmium Detected in Several Hot Chocolate Mixes - Consumer Reports Warns of Health Risks

Published December 24, 2023
7 months ago

Be cautious with your winter comfort rituals, as Consumer Reports has issued a warning that might give hot chocolate enthusiasts pause. Their research into popular powder mixes has unearthed concerning amounts of heavy metals, specifically lead and cadmium, reminiscent of their earlier findings in chocolate bars from well-known brands.

In the stride of continuous food safety evaluations, six prominent hot chocolate brands were put to the test this year. Notably, brands such as Great Value (Walmart), Starbucks, Trader Joe's, and Nestlé were identified as having excess levels of these harmful substances. This comes off the back of alarming discoveries within chocolate bars, which emboldened the organization to broaden their investigation to encompass the seemingly innocent hot chocolate mixes.

Two brands, Swiss Miss and Ghirardelli, emerged from the study with better results, indicating lower levels of these toxic metals, and hence pose a lesser health threat for consumers. Health risks associated with prolonged exposure to lead and cadmium, as outlined by Brian Ronholm, director of food policy for Consumer Reports, include suppressed immune function, reproductive harm, kidney damage, and increased blood pressure.

Special populations, such as pregnant women and young children, are particularly susceptible. Developmental challenges and detrimental neurological outcomes are potential threats from the consumption of these heavy metals, which have found their way into the cacao plants from soil or post-harvest contamination.

Manufacturers may have limited control over the occurrence of these metals in cacao solids—the primary constituent in chocolate. However, the broader issue is the absence of stringent FDA standards for heavy metals in food, an issue the agency is reportedly addressing with the Closer to Zero initiative. California has set daily exposure standards, but federal regulation lacks specific limits for many heavy metals in food products.

Consumer Reports advises against panic, promoting moderation and selective consumption instead. Yet, without clear labeling requirements, consumers are often unaware of the potential contaminants in their favorite treats.

The implications of this report extend beyond merely choosing safer hot chocolate options—there is a plea for more comprehensive food safeties, regulatory action, and conscious consumerism.

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