Shopping Cart

We Know How Much Lead & Cadmium Is In Our Chocolate

Posted by Elaine Read on
We Know How Much Lead & Cadmium Is In Our Chocolate

Our daughter is frequently snacking on chocolate up in her favorite tree, squirrel-like.

Recent articles published by the New York Times and Consumer Reports have raised consumer awareness around the presence of heavy metals like lead and cadmium in chocolate. While these reports were news to many, we became aware of the issue several years ago, when one of our California-based retail partners asked if we were compliant with California’s Proposition 65, legislation that requires businesses to include warning labels on products that contain above a certain threshold of carcinogenic chemicals to California consumers.

Back then, we had no idea if we were. But Matt and I did know that when we started Xocolatl, we were clear that we would only make chocolate we’d let our kids eat unlimited amounts of. While our own kids’ health and well-being has always held us accountable to the decisions we make about what goes into our chocolate, we knew we had to dig into Prop 65 to learn what more than personal ethics we needed to measure ourselves against.

Are We Living Up To Our Mission?

Our Vision: To enrich lives through chocolate. Our Mission: Produce chocolate that delights and satisfies. Discover and share the true value and awesomeness of chocolate. Positively impact livelihoods, health and sustainability through focused growth.
It’s hard to imagine creating a company that didn’t have ideals, because what else is any of this for?

After a crash course in heavy metals and Prop 65, we sent our chocolate to a third party lab to check their levels of lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury and arsenic – 5 heavy metals that could possibly be found in chocolate. While waiting for the results, we spent an awful lot of time worrying about what we’d do if our chocolate contained unsafe levels of these metals.

We wondered what we could possibly say to our customers who’d become our friends over the years, supporting us at farmers markets and in our store, introducing Xocolatl to their friends and family because they think of us as makers of wholesome chocolate.

Since we knew that the heavy metals enter into chocolate through the soils in which the cacao is grown (the same being true for other agricultural crops grown in soil that contains these metals), we wondered if we’d be forced to part ways with any of the farmers with whom we’ve spent years building direct trade relationships and whose cacao we love to turn into chocolate bars.

A woman with short brown hair, wearing a white shirt with blue, teal, pink stripes, stands next to an older woman who is sitting down wearing a tan shirt and red bucket hat with blue band across it. Both women are smiling, but the sitting woman's face is partially obscured.
Returning to visit the farmers whose cacao we purchase is the highlight of every trip to origin.

Fortunately, after several nail-biting days, we received back our test results and learned that the levels of metals in our chocolates are well below the Maximum Allowable Dose Levels (MADLs) that would require any warning labels (please see sidebar for more context on what MADLs mean). 

Quick Primer On How Prop 65 Limits Are Set:  Prop 65 leads the nation in setting the most conservative limits on the daily maximum allowable dose levels (MADLs) for heavy metals that must be labeled for consumers.  As an important note, and to help put the numbers into perspective, the Prop 65 limits for each metal are set at 1/1000th of the lowest amount previously tested to be safe to consume on a daily basis.   So, for example, if Kryptonite were regulated by Prop 65, and the scientific community agreed that consuming as much as 1 gram of Kryptonite per day, every day, was safe, then any product that contained even 0.001 grams of Kryptonite would need to carry the Prop 65 warning label.  A product that contained less than 0.001 grams of Kryptonite would not need a warning label.  In the absence of any labeling laws that are stricter than Prop 65 and because we have California-based consumers, we follow these labeling limits.

We had the lab test all of our single origin chocolates, as well as our cacao husks (from which we make our Divine & Bewitching herbal cacao teas). You can download our full lab results from our most recent tests. From that raw lab data, we took the levels detected in each of our single origin chocolates and calculated the amounts that would then be present in each of our flavored bars. (Whenever our kids ask, “When am I ever going to use math when I grow up?”, I now have a really good example for them.) You can download the results for our full set of chocolate bars here.

I should mention that there are a lot of different opinions on how useful the limits set by Prop 65 are. How helpful is it to consumers to see a warning label even when the chemical has “no observable effect” on the human body at even 1,000 times the amount present in that item? How easy is it to gather that same information from every food an individual consumes each day? Without backgrounds in health or science ourselves, Matt and I decided that while we can’t provide answers to those questions, we could provide test results, a process by which we always test chocolate from new origins before we make it for our customers, and resources that may help our customers make their own informed decisions on how carefully they should review the levels of metals in their food.

Further Exploration and Resources
Proposition 65
Consumer Products Law blog post
Lead and Cadmium In Your Chocolate?
Is There Cadmium In Your Chocolate

4 images. The first is a photo of a cacao tree branch with 5 green unripe cacao pods on it, with several star fruit behind growing on a nearby tree. The caption for this image says "A healthy, sustainably managed cacao farm depends on biodiversity for soil health. It’s common to find starfruit, bananas, coconut, oranges, mangoes and other tropic fruits growing with cacao." The second image is of Xocolatl founders Elaine Read & Matt Weyandt meeting with an organizer from CAC Pangoa, a co-op in Peru where Xocolatl sources cacao beans. The caption for this image says "Meeting face-to-face with the farmers we partner with helps build trust, understanding, and mutually beneficial long-term relationships. The third image is of a large quantity of cacao beans spread out under a greenhouse dome to dry. A bright blue sky is visible beyond the dome. The caption for this image says "Good post-harvest practices like drying cacao beans on raised, covered beds instead of on the ground along busy, dusty roads differentiates quality cacao from what ends up in dime-store candy." The fourth and final image is of a large jute bag filled with cacao beans that is labeled as organic cacao from Pangoa. The caption for this photo says "While some of the cacao we source is not certified as organic, all of it is grown following organic principles.  Traveling to origin is the best way for us to understand what we’re purchasing and is part of our due diligence process."

While I’m sure very few people enjoy being handed a potential problem, we were grateful to have been alerted to an issue we didn’t even know existed by one of our California customers way back when. Researching this issue and testing our chocolate for heavy metals gave us the opportunity to understand our industry at an even deeper level than we would have ever imagined necessary.

A boy with short brown hair makes a wide eyed and excited face as he chomps on a piece of Xocolatl's peppermint bark.

We’re happy to report to you that we’re still allowing our children to eat as much of our chocolate as they could possibly want (and really, however you’re measuring it, it’s pretty hard to pound too much dark chocolate in any one day, each and every day), happy to report that our chocolate does not require Prop 65 warning labels, and happy to report that we will continue purchasing from the hardworking, expert farmers who grow the cacao we turn into chocolate.

And when we introduce new cacao origins, we promise you we will continue our third party testing to ensure we always know what is in our chocolate and we'll continue to update our results so you will, too. 

In transparency + always good will,

Elaine + Matt

(written by humans and not AI!)

Older Post Newer Post

1 comment

  • Marsha Bomar on

    Thanks for always going a step above and beyond. Grateful that you can keep supporting your growers and that we get to enjoy all that yummy chocolate.

    Proud of you every day!!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published