Phillip Minton M.D.

Toxic Lead Contamination of Chocolate Products

In chocolate on April 13, 2012 at 12:30 am

In past years there have been scattered reports of the possible contamination of chocolate by toxic lead. Lead is a metal which has many industrial uses, but which is invariably toxic to humans. Its main toxicity appears to be to poison the nervous system, including the brain.

Around the developed world, the toxic hazard of lead poisoning has a long history. Ancient Roman water pipes were often made of lead, leading to lead poisoning of the population to varying degrees, often affecting the upper social strata the most. Modern developed societies recognized the problem in the 1960’s, as inner city children were diagnosed in large numbers with lead poisoning. The problem this time was from two sources, lead paint and automobile exhaust. Lead had been added to paints and to gasoline as an additive for many decades before it became known that this resulted in neurotoxicity and other hazards, especially involving children. Inner city children were placed most at risk because they often ate the peeling remnants of old paint jobs, and were exposed to higher concentrations of auto exhaust fumes than were other populations of children.

Lead is a type of heavy metal toxin. It is a dense metal that can attach itself to our body tissues, causing many maladies, most notably high blood pressure and brain dysfunction. It is famous for leading to learning disabilities in affected youngsters.
Heavy metal toxins are a great health concern worldwide. Chief among these are lead and mercury. As I detailed in two chapters of my book, The Immortality Enzyme, published in the year 2000 but still available on Amazon and other book sellers, these toxic heavy metals often seem to permeate the modern environment. How did toxic lead find its way into chocolate? It appears to have been from two sources.

In certain instances, it was from leaded ink on the candy wrappers. Chocolate candies of both Chinese and Mexican origin have been found to be contaminated with lead. Testing of the candy itself and its labels, resulted in the conclusion that in some instances the lead in the ink on the labels of the candy wrappers had leached through the wrappers and contaminated the chocolate inside. Remedies? 1) Discontinue the use of leaded ink on candy wrappers. 2) Think twice about consuming chocolates from sources of questionable integrity.

In other instances it seems that the chocolate itself was contaminated as it was processed in the open air of Africa. African nations allow the continued use of leaded gasoline, so their air can be contaminated with residues of lead exhaust fumes from autos and trucks. Exposure of the semi-processed cacao paste to the open air as it dries in the African sun, can allow lead fumes from the air to attach to the cacao paste, thereby contaminating the end product- African chocolate. Remedies? 1) Do not cure cacao paste in contaminated air. 2) Exercise caution in consuming chocolate sourced from countries where lead permeates their atmosphere.

Lead contamination of chocolate is a real, but seemingly diminishing risk to our health. The potential presence of this famously toxic heavy metal, lead, is one of the possible negative side-effects of chocolate consumption. However, any food can be contaminated these same ways. Further information on this topic can also be found in my eBook, “The Ultimate Users’ Guide to healthy Chocolate”.

In summary, the ways in which chocolate has been contaminated by lead in the past is being addressed. We can also note that the same methods of lead contamination could easily also affect other foods and drinks sourced from the same producers.

  1. Dear Phillip , That’s Why i only eat a organic fairtrade certified raw chocolate also the amount of flavonoids are printed on the wraps and you can use that information for knowing the quality of your chocolate not the % chocolate content but the FC will tell you if you are having a High Flavonoid cacao. Check out my Twitter wall for the kind of chocolate i eat.
    I also have a blog link there where you can download some Study’s about chocolate .
    One 10 gram square i eat has +5000 orac ( + 23000 ORACfn ) and more then >800mg flavonoid content.

    Keep up the good work !

    Love this Blog

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