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Lead, cadmium found in chocolates, consumer groups says

ChocolateAs You Sow, a consumer health watchdog group, filed notices of legal action Wednesday against Hershey’s, See’s Candies, and Mars.

The notices allege violation of California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act for failure to warn consumers of cadmium in the companies’ chocolate products.

As You Sow previously filed legal action against an additional 13 chocolate manufacturers – including Godiva, Ghirardelli, Lindt, Green and Black’s, Kroger, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Earth Circle Organics, Moonstruck, Theo, and Vosges – for failure to warn of lead and/or cadmium in their chocolate products.

Lead exposure has been a significant public health issue for decades and is associated with neurological impairment, such as learning disabilities and lower IQ, even at low levels.

“No amount of lead ingestion is ‘safe’ for children,” said Sean Palfrey, M.D., professor of pediatrics and public health at Boston University School of Medicine. “Pregnant women and young children with developing brains in particular should avoid any ingestion of lead.”

The National Confectioners Association responded to the filings by saying heavy metals such as lead and cadmium are naturally-occurring elements found in the soil and water where plants are grown, according to The Washington Post article “How Much Lead Is in Your Chocolate?”

Chronic exposure to cadmium has been linked to kidney, liver, and bone damage in humans.

Children are more susceptible to exposure effects from low doses of cadmium over time. Animal studies have associated cadmium exposure with decreased birth weight, neurobehavioral problems, and male reproductive harm.

California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act requires manufacturers to warn consumers if their products contain chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm.

Testing conducted at an independent laboratory for As You Sow shows that the chocolate products named in the legal notices contain lead, cadmium, or both, and fail to provide the required warning to consumers.

“Consumers need to know that chocolate may contain heavy metals,” said Eleanne van Vliet, toxic chemical research director for As You Sow. “Since lead and cadmium accumulate in the body over time, even small amounts should be avoided.”

“Nobody expects heavy metals in their chocolate,” said Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow. “By issuing these notices, we hope to convince chocolate manufacturers to either remove or reduce heavy metals in their products through sound supply chain practices, or provide warnings so consumers can make their own choices about whether to consume the products.”

Copyright 2015, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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