Worried About Lead In Your Dark Chocolate?


Chocolate is a comforting indulgence known to lift moods and soothe stress.  Dark chocolate in particular is often chosen for its health benefits.  It tends to contain less sugar than milk chocolate and is rich in heart healthy antioxidants. But its reputation as the safer candy is now in dispute.

Consumers with a heart-healthy habit of treating themselves to a little dark chocolate could actually be introducing toxic heavy metals into their bodies.  A Consumer Reports study found heavy metals in one-third of the chocolate products tested.  A test of 28 different dark chocolate brands found some amount of lead and cadmium in all of them.  Using California's maximum allowable dose of lead (0.5 micrograms) or cadmium (5.1 micrograms),  23 of the chocolate bars failed for one of the other.  Five brands contained more than the allowable dose for both heavy metals.  

Note, however, that the World Health Organization (WHO) states, "there is no known safe blood lead concentration; even blood lead concentrations as low as 3.5 µg/dL may be associated with decreased intelligence in children, behavioural difficulties and learning problems." And the behavioral Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers lead a potential carcinogen.

Health Concerns Of Consuming Heavy Metals

Lead exposure has been associated with a variety of health issues such as heart disease and cognitive decline (Middleton, 2023).  Repeat exposure to lead has been linked to nervous system disorders, immune suppression, kidney damage, abdominal pain, gum disease, anemia, osteoporosis, hypertension, and reproductive problems.  And cadmium is linked to bone disease, kidney disease, tooth discoloration, and raised systolic blood pressure.

For pregnant women, lead exposure increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, and congenital abnormalities. Even after the child is born, there is an increased risk of impaired neurological development and learning disabilities.

Worried About Lead In Your Dark Chocolate?

Why Does Chocolate Even Contain Lead?

A smaller percentage of the lead comes from the air and soil in which cacao is grown, from pollution essentially, and natural sources to a lesser extent. Choosing cacoa beans grown in regions associated with less lead can reduce the levels found.

However, testing shows us that the lead content increases as the chocolate is transported and processed.  This demonstrates a huge opportunity for manufactures to reduce the lead content of their products by making adjustments to the process.

What Chocolate Is Safest?

It is concerning to think that such a common food could be unsafe to consume. While some dark chocolate brands test lower than others, milk chocolate and white chocolate consistently test lower for heavy metals.  It is thought that the majority of the heavy metals are present in nonfat cocoa solids.   

Purchasing organic chocolate does not necessarily guarantee that it is lead free. Do your research and choose your chocolate carefully to protect your health.

 Some Of The Worst Dark Chocolate

Chocolates with the highest concentration of heavy metals:

  • Theo Organic Fair-Trade Coconut 70 Dark Chocolate
  • Endangered Species Chocolate Natural Dark 88 Cocoa
  • Taza Chocolate Mexicano Super Dark Stone Ground 85 Organic
  • Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Dark Chocolate
  • Ghirardelli Intense Dark 72% Cacao Twilight Delight Chocolate Bar
  • Godiva Chocolatier 85% Cacao Extra Dark     
  • Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa Excellence Extra Dark   
  • Dove Silky Smooth Dark Chocolate Bar   
  • 365 Everyday Value Organic Dark Chocolate (56% Cacao)   

Safer Chocolate:

Worried About Lead In Your Dark Chocolate?

Chocolates with a lower concentration of heavy metals:

  • Hershey’s Cocoa 100 Cacao Natural Unsweetened
  • Navitas Organics Cacao Nibs
  • Taza Chocolate Wicked Dark with Toasted Coconut 95 Dark
  • Ghirardelli Chocolate Intense Dark Midnight Reverie 86 Cacao
  • Hershey's Kisses Milk Chocolate
  • Toblerone of Switzerland Milk Chocolate with Honey and Almond Nougat
  • Green & Black's Organic Milk Chocolate (34% Cacao)
  • Lindt Excellence A Touch of Sea Salt Dark
  • Jo's Candies Dark Chocolate Covered Graham Crackers All Natural

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*This blog contains affiliate links. The owner of this site may receive a small commission if you click a link and make a recommended purchase.


What To Remember:
Once considered a healthy indulgence, your dark chocolate might pose an unexpected health risk.
Consumer reports found that many chocolate products contain heavy metals like lead and cadmium.
Organic chocolates are not necessarily lead free. Choose your chocolate wisely.



Middleton, Sara.  (November, 2023).  Lethal legacy of lead: Millions affected by lead-related heart disease and IQ decline. Natural Health 365.

World Health Organization.  (August, 2023).  Lead Poisoning. 

Loria, Kevin.  (October, 2023) A Third of Chocolate Products Are High in Heavy Metals, CR's Tests Find.  Consumer Reports.


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 *This blog contains affiliate links. The owner of this site may receive a small commission if you click a link and make a recommended purchase.


“Chocolate symbolizes, as does no other food, luxury, comfort, sensuality, gratification, and love.”
― Karl Petzke