Hershey under scrutiny following Consumer Reports’ findings on chocolate’s heavy metal content

A recent study by Consumer Reports has revealed unsettling levels of lead and cadmium in numerous chocolate products, pushing the consumer advocacy group to urge Hershey Co. to lower the presence of these heavy metals in their confections. Of the 48 assorted chocolate items analyzed, a significant 16 exhibited potentially harmful quantities of lead, cadmium, or both. The research spanned across multiple categories such as dark chocolate bars, milk chocolate bars, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and various chocolate mixes including those for brownies, cake, and hot chocolate.

Hershey under scrutiny following Consumer Reports' findings on chocolate's heavy metal content

Prominent products flagged for elevated metal levels encompassed a dark chocolate bar and a hot chocolate mix from Walmart, cocoa powder from both Hershey’s and Droste, semi-sweet chocolate chips offered by Target, and hot chocolate concoctions from renowned names like Trader Joe’s, Nestle, and Starbucks. Notably, only milk chocolate bars, known for their reduced cocoa solids, passed the test without showing excessive metal content.

Exposing the potential health hazards, Consumer Reports highlighted that prolonged exposure to these metals could lead to severe complications, including problems in the nervous system, immune system suppression, and kidney damage. Pregnant women and young children are particularly at risk. In a response, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emphasized that globally, chocolate is seen as a “minor source of exposure” to these metals. However, they stressed that the onus is on manufacturers and processors to guarantee the safety of their food products.

This isn’t the first time the spotlight has been on these concerns. Last December, Consumer Reports found that out of 28 dark chocolate bars tested, 23 had excessive levels of lead or cadmium. This list included Hershey products as well as those under the Lily’s and Scharffen Berger brand names.

Brian Ronholm, the food policy director for Consumer Reports, pinpointed Hershey for action. Given its stature as a foremost and widely recognized brand, he believes Hershey should take the initiative to make its products safer. Although Hershey’s Chief Financial Officer, Steve Voskuil, earlier acknowledged the company’s plans to diminish these metal levels, recognizing their natural occurrence in soil and, subsequently, in chocolate, a definitive commitment is sought.

It’s noteworthy that more than 75,000 consumers backed an earlier petition urging Hershey to minimize heavy metal levels in its chocolates. Consumer Reports has revived this call to action. When approached for remarks, Hershey directed the inquiry to the National Confectioners Association. Christopher Gindlesperger, the association’s spokesperson, defended the product, stating, “Chocolate and cocoa are safe to eat and can be enjoyed as treats as they have been for centuries.”