Is Dark Chocolate Toxic?

February 22, 2023

By Anna Varriano

Shortly after Valentine’s Day, I saw a segment on the news regarding a Consumer Report (U.S. based) that investigated the dangers of dark chocolate. The results revealed that many brands contain higher-than-safe levels of the heavy metals cadmium and/or lead.

Since I am a dark chocolate lover who eats some several times a week, I Googled the Consumer Report, which appears to have been released in December 2022. The report, entitled “Lead and Cadmium Could Be in Your Dark Chocolate”, stated that dangerous levels of heavy metals were found in many popular ‘healthy’ brands of dark chocolate bars including Lindt, Theo, and Trader Joe’s.

Consumer Reports tested 28 dark chocolate bars and found cadmium and lead in all of them and stated that for 23 of the bars tested “eating just an ounce a day would put an adult over a level that public health authorities and Consumer Reports experts say may be harmful for at least one of those heavy metals. Five of the bars were above those levels for both cadmium and lead.”

The report goes on to mention that while the greatest concern is for pregnant women and young children, people of any age are at risk as frequent exposure to lead in adults can damage the kidneys as well as cause problems with blood pressure, and compromise the immune, nervous, and reproductive systems. Pretty serious consequences linked to what has often been referred to as a healthy decadence!

My first reaction was to determine what an ounce of the brand of dark chocolate I normally have in my pantry looks like. The brand is Lindt Excellence 78% Cacao Smooth Dark. While this particular bar wasn’t included in the report, both the 70% and 85% Cacao Lindt bars were (and I often get those), with the 70% variety falling in the ‘High in Cadmium’ category, and the 85% variety falling into the ‘High in Lead’ category.

So … out comes my kitchen scale. The entire bar is 100 grams/3.5 ounces as stated on the package. My kitchen scale showed me that one square is about 1/3 of an ounce … and I usually have one or sometimes two squares at least several times a week.

Even though my one to two squares consumption is below the ‘eating just an ounce a day’ warning, I will keep two things top of mind:

#1 – Cut back on consumption.

I can happily make sure I don’t consumer more than one square a day of the Lindt 78% stash that I currently have on hand.

#2 – Look for safer options.

The ‘safer choices’ identified in the Consumer Reports brand are:

  • Mast Organic Dark Chocolate (80% Cocoa)
  • Taza Organic Deliciously Dark Chocolate (70% Cacao)
  • Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate (both the 86% and 72% Cacoa bars)
  • Valrhona Abinao Dark Chocolate (85% Cacao)

Related to #2, when I buy chocolate from a small local supplier, I’ll ask them if they can comment on how their products measure up on the topic of heavy metals.

It Goes Beyond Dark Chocolate!

While this report focused on dark chocolate, the Canada Food Inspection Agency stated that “lead and cadmium are naturally occurring metals that enter the environment through both natural and industrial processes, ending up in the air, soil and bodies of water.” Some sources state that even healthy foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach contain heavy metals.

Of course … LOTS … and remember two words:


Moderation and variety are important concepts to remember when it comes to eating food – including dark chocolate!

 Other good news is that studies show that there are many foods and nutrients that can offer protection against cadmium and lead and other heavy metal toxicity including:

  • The minerals zinc (pumpkin seeds are a good source), calcium (dark leafy greens, cruciferous and brassica family veggies are a good source), and selenium (Brazil nuts are a good source – you just need one a day!)
  • Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and the B vitamins. These nutrients and so many others are abundant in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and unprocessed whole grains. Maker sure your grocery cart includes lots of veggies and some fruits and include all the colours of the rainbow!
  • Garlic and onions
  • Turmeric (curcumin) and ginger
  • Green tea
  • Probiotics – Probiotics offer SO many health benefits. I have been taking a daily probiotic supplement for over 10 years. Are you taking one yet?

Bottom line? I’m not giving up my dark chocolate, but I will keep the Consumer Report findings in mind. I’ll also continue practicing moderation and variety, continue to eat a healthy diet, and choose ‘cleaner’ brands of dark chocolate whenever possible.

Take control of what you can!


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