Is There Lead in My Chocolate?

Recently, some media reports have called into question the safety of consumer-grade chocolate with regards to levels of cadmium and lead. This has caused some of our customers to ask questions about the safety of our chocolate supply.

At Cococo we take food safety and regulatory compliance very seriously. It is our top priority to ensure all our products are safe for consumption and of the highest possible quality. This includes ensuring our chocolates do not contain high levels of heavy metals, like cadmium and lead. Based on testing, we can assure you that our products are safe.

Why is there lead and cadmium in chocolate and cocoa?

Cadmium and Lead, the two heavy metals of public concern in chocolate, can be found in trace amounts due to the soil cocoa beans are grown, and the environment in which wet cocoa beans are processed.

Lead can be introduced to cocoa beans through various means, such as soil, dust, vehicle exhaust, and emissions from power plants worldwide. Once cocoa beans are removed from the cocoa pods during harvesting, they possess a natural sticky cacao pulp covering. This sticky layer allows lead to adhere to the beans as they undergo the fermentation and drying process in the open air of tropical cocoa-producing regions. Additionally, cadmium can be detected in chocolate and cocoa due to cadmium's natural presence in the tropical soils where these crops are cultivated and collected. Cocoa trees absorb cadmium through their roots from the soil and subsequently deposit it in the cocoa beans.

Cadmium and lead occur naturally in the environment. The general population is exposed to them from multiple sources, including smoking and various food sources. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) noted that that often it is not the food with the highest levels, but foods that are consumed in larger quantities that have the greatest impact on dietary exposure. For example, major contributors to cadmium intake include food categories such as grains and grain products, vegetables and vegetable products and starchy roots and tubers. Chocolate products were found to make a minor contribution to dietary exposure across all age groups.

Is it safe to eat chocolate?

Yes. Chocolate and cocoa are safe to eat and can be enjoyed as treats like they have been for a long time. 

Our chocolate supplier ensures the proprietary chocolate they make for us conforms to all international regulations and maximum legal levels (MLLs) of contaminants in those countries where their product is sold. This includes the US at the federal level, as well as California’s Proposition 65. Canada currently does not have stipulated tolerances for Cadmium or Lead in chocolate (please refer to Health Canada’s full list of chemical contaminant MLLs). 

Based on testing, we can assure you that our products are safe and below the following regulatory limits (ppm means "parts per million"): 

The regulations that are set out in the US (as well as in the EU and Japan) — and that are upheld by our supplier — hold very conservative MLLs, setting these standards to protect the most vulnerable members of the population.

Here is some further information from our supplier on the measures they take to exceed industry best practices for food safety, and meet the aforementioned regulations:

In addition to our commitment to following Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) as mandated by the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) programs such as Preventive Controls, Food Defense and Supplier Verification, we conduct a Surveillance Program to periodically monitor for contaminants and assure our products are in full compliance with applicable food safety laws and regulations. 

In this Surveillance Program, samples are screened for heavy metals; mycotoxins (aflatoxins and ochratoxins); polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; dioxins; and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls and pesticides. For these analyses, [we contract] with independent ISO 17025 accredited labs to conduct the screenings.”

In conclusion, Cococo can assure you that our products are safe; and when consumed in moderation, can be a very happy part of an overall healthy diet.

If you have further questions or concerns about this issue, please reach out to our Quality Assurance and Regulatory Compliance Manager via email at:

For further reading:

Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) Experts Panel: