Beware of Chocolate and Seafood Nightmares Before Christmas

According to November's Customer Report, significant amounts of toxic lead and cadmium were found in popular chocolate brands. In addition, contaminated oysters sickened over 200 people.

Key takeaways:
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    Consumer Reports finds a startling amount of heavy metals in popular dark-chocolate brands across the United States, leaving dark chocolate lovers in limbo.
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    The fears behind lead and cadmium, the two heavy metals showing up in chocolate bars with high cocoa percentage.
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    Over 200 Americans across the Gulf Coast suffer from illness after oyster recall in Galveston Bay, just southeast of Houston.

The study found popular brands like Ghirardelli, Dove, Lint, and even grocer Trader Joe’s showing large signs of either cadmium or lead. The two heavy metals are even more prevalent in dark chocolates.

What is lead and cadmium?

Both lead and cadmium are heavy metals that are let into the environment via human industry, featuring mining, burning of coal and oil — plus many more. The heavy metals are able to enter the soil through drainage or by pesticides and phosphate fertilizers.

Once in the atmosphere, the tiny particles are able to move free across long distances. Both lead and cadmium do not disappear quickly, but remain for years.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), lead is the largest environmental health threat to children. Exposure to lead for children can lead to serious health concerns, including learning disabilities and lower IQ. Even if low levels are consumed, the effects are still grand.

These heavy metals can occur in chocolate at any stage during the process in which cocoa beans are converted to chocolate. Lead and cadmium can be present in the soil due to water drainage or simply landed on the leaf. Nonetheless, heavy metals are eminent in chocolate.

Dark chocolate concerns

Dark chocolate is praised for its health benefits, but more prevalent signs of lead and cadmium means it may be time for a substitute. Due to dark chocolate’s higher cocoa content, the sweet trends to shower higher signs of heavy metals than milk chocolate.

Consumer Reports identified 28 different dark-chocolate bars, finding 23 to have lead and cadmium content at levels of concern.

Dark-chocolate bars containing the highest levels of lead and cadmium:

  • Theo Organic Pure Dark 70% Cocoa: 120% lead, 142% cadmium
  • Trader Joe’s The Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate 85% cocoa: 127% lead, 229% cadmium
  • Theo Organic Extra Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa: 140% lead, 189% cadmium
  • Lily’s Extremely Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa: 143% lead, 101% cadmium
  • Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa: 143% lead, 181% cadmium

Not every dark-chocolate bar fared poorly. Five bars featured as safe options according to the study, including:

  • Mast Organic Dark Chocolate 80% Cocoa
  • Taza Chocolate Organic Deliciously Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao
  • Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate 86% Cacao
  • Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate Twilight Delight 72% Cacao
  • Valrhona Abinao Dark Chocolate 85% Cacao

While no definite solution exists to tackling the heavy metals in chocolate products, As You Sow points-out multiple methods chocolate producers can take when attempting to reduce the presence of heavy metals. These include soil testing for metals before the growing process and avoiding lead or cadmium-containing pesticides.

FDA cautions against oyster consumption

Also on Thursday, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) announced a recall for oysters leading to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) investigation. Oysters from Nov. 17 through Dec. 7 in Harvest Area TX1, Galveston Bay, are not good for consumption.

Contaminated oysters are now in restaurants and retailers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Those in possession of these oysters have been advised not to sell but to dispose due to a possible norovirus contamination.

Norovirus is a common virus not related to the flu, with symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. Symptoms of norovirus develop 12 to 48 hours following exposure and are usually non-existent after three days. It is important to drink fluids through norovirus symptoms as they can lead to dehydration.

So before making the most of those chocolate bars for the Holiday season or oysters for Christmas dinner — beware of the threats!

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