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BrianMDelaney

Cadmium contamination in cacao products

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Consumer Lab just released test results for cacao products. Navitas Natural (organic) Cacao Powder, and NOW Certified Organic Cacao Powder both failed because of cadmium contamination [1]. Both contained amounts around three times higher than the limit suggested by WHO. I'm tossing my Navitas cacao nibs. (Consumer Lab doesn't say "shocked" very often.)

 

Brian

 

[1]

New Review:

Is Your Cocoa or Chocolate Contaminated? -- New Review of Flavanol Sources: We recently tested cocoa powders, extracts, and chocolate, which can be rich in flavanols with potential cardiovascular benefits. But we were shocked to find two products contaminated with high amounts of a toxic heavy metal. We also found some products with only small amounts of flavanols, and a wide range in the amount of caffeine in products. Fortunately, we also identified some products to be high in flavanols without contamination. Find out which brands offer the highest quality at the lowest price, see the clinical evidence, get tips for taking, and more, in the new Cocoa Powders, Extracts and Chocolate Review

 

(The review is behind a pay wall, and cutting and pasting isn't possible.)

Edited by BrianMDelaney

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Guest Chris Dowling

Cut & paste notwithstanding, can you list a few of the products with high flavinols with low cadmium? TIA.

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Login info for some reason not working right now. But I remember

 

http://www.iherb.com/ReserveAge-Organics-CocoaWell-True-Energy-with-AdaptoStress3-60-Veggie-Caps/34436

 

(lots of caffeine, though)

 

was one of them. http://www.cocoavia.com/ was another.

 

I recommend joining Consumer Lab, by the way. Very good cause.

 

Brian

Edited by BrianMDelaney

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Guest CD

Previously, irc, there was debate about the objectivity and motives of CL, and they quite often reviewed many items I had no use for. Also, I'm really interested in cocoa powder, not extracts, but thanks, anyway!

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Was there a debate about Consumer Lab on the CR Society lists? I can't find anything in the archives. I'd love to hear more, if you recall any details.

 

If your interest is in cacao powder, not extracts, the review should be particularly relevant, since two cacao powders failed the tests.

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From Navitas's Facebook page (under "Reviews"):

 

 

Laura Waldorf:

 

I have purchased Navitas Cacao Powder and Nibs for my family for years because I care about their health above all else. I recently read two reports showing very high levels of heavy metals in the cacao, particularly cadmium, which bioaccumulates obviously. I am pregnant AND nursing. The response from Navitas was so dismissive and took no responsibility, and did not suggest any proactive action. Shameful, the type of response I would expect from Kraft or a food manufacturer that doesn't pretend to care about your health, really. Big money, big scam.

Like · · 23 hours ago

 

Navitas Naturals:

 

Hi Laura, Thank you for your message. We are sorry for your frustration with our response about your concern regarding our cacao powder. We hope you understand that we are aware of the issue of heavy metals in food products. This is an issue we are vigilantly investigating. We test all of our products for lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury, at least twice a year. In all instances these tests have come back with values that reflect less than the FDA requirements. We test for lead more often than other heavy metals and we have always had values that were far lower than the US federal standards. Our premium, organic, non-GMO cacao powder tested more than 1/1000 of the FDA recommended daily limit. Our organic, non-gmo Cacao Nibs had no detectable lead amounts. If you have additional questions or concerns, you can reach our product support team directly at 888-645-4282.

 

13 hours ago · Like

 

https://www.facebook.com/NavitasNaturalsFan?fref=ts

 

Later edit:

 

Direct link to the comments about cadmium:

 

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008317788457&sk=reviews

Edited by BrianMDelaney

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Just in from Consumer Lab:

 

Product Update: Cocoa

 

ConsumerLab.com has received a copy of a letter from the distributor of a cocoa product [NOW] which we recently reported to be contaminated with cadmium. The letter acknowledges that the cadmium level is “higher than we prefer” and the product has apparently been put “On Hold” pending that company’s review of the data. For details, see the “Update” at the top of the Cocoa Powders, Extracts and Chocolate Review >>

 

Based on the high levels of cadmium contamination found in certain cocoa products, we have received requests from many readers to test additional cocoa-based products. If you would like to suggest a product, email us at info@consumerlab.com.

 

 

On Consumer Lab's website, we read that NOW says the level is "well below the Tolerable Limit for cadmium set by the FDA". Consumer Lab says they are unaware of such limits set by the FDA. Translation: there are no such limits, and NOW is making this up. I believe Consumer Lab is correct. This makes me wonder even more about NOW....

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Note: I wrote to Navitas on May 22 asking them to respond to Consumer Lab's comment:

 

Updates:

Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder (5/22/14): CL received a copy of a letter signed by the CEO of Navitas Naturals (dated 5/21/2014) apparently responding to CL's findings in this report which showed this product to be contaminated with cadmium. The letter was provided to CL by a CL member who had recently purchased this product and had contacted Navitas with concerns. The letter states, "Based on federal and EU recommended limits, we feel confident about the safety of our cacao products." The letter notes, however, that “We are also evaluating other cacao products available in the marketplace to determine how different supply sources may affect the presence of heavy metals” ConsumerLab.com does not agree with Navitas' position regarding the safety of the product. As noted in the report below, the amount of cadmium found in Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder exceeds the tolerable limit for children in the European Union and contributes significantly toward the limit for adults.

 

Still no response (and I know they received my email).

 

NOW and Navitas are is now on my personal boycott list.

 

2014-07-04. See July 4 update later in this thread for news about Navitas.

 

Brian

Edited by BrianMDelaney

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Hi Brian!

 

I prepare cocoa drinks using Hershey's Unsweetened Cocoa powder (and Neotame plus a little of Trader Joe's unsweetend vanilla Almond Milk :))

I telephoned Hershey, and obtained a similar response: They said that they are well within the government limits for Cd and other heavy metal

contamination -- but the girl told me that she didn't have actual figures -- that she was unable to obtain them from her "higher ups".

 

I'd love to see some numbers.

 

BTW, I used to buy cocoa powder from Warren -- as I recall, he had some information on the stuff that he sold. I'll try contacting him.

 

-- Saul

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Hi Saul!

 

Well, "unable to obtain" the actual numbers is odd. I'd be suspicious.

 

Yes, let me know what Warren says. Thanks

 

 

Meanwhile, I just purchased Earth Circle Organics, Organic Balinese Cacao Nibs:

 

http://www.iherb.com/Earth-Circle-Organics-Organic-Balinese-Cacao-Nibs-8-oz-227-g/50207

 

I haven't been able to confirm this via PubMed, but my understanding is that there tends to be much less cadmium contamination in Bali. (Not sure about lead, but I doubt any place is as bad as Africa -- where the problem mostly arises during processing because of Pb in the air.) I'm going to contact Earth Circle to see whether someone can "obtain the actual numbers"....

 

Brian

 

(My discount code for anyone new to iHerb: GUD195.)

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Hi!

 

I just spoke to Warren -- he had a lot of useful information on the subject. Among other things, it tends to cofirm that the Hershey's cocoa powder that I'm using is almost certainly safe.

He tells me that i should ask for a recent assay report from Hershey -- I'll do that.

 

Warren says that Hershey makes a blend of cocoa powders from various sources -- very many sources. He says that's what all of the largest frims do; and, he says, this is a good idea: If a few are contaminated, the contamination is brought to insignificance by the very many other sources.

He's currently using a European variety (from the largest supplier in Europe -- the "Hersheys of Europe") -- that does the same thing.

 

He has an older assay from them -- he'll check fr a newer one -- and he'll email me back.

 

:)

 

-- Saul

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Hi again Brian!

 

I've telephoned Hershey's again -- they were able to read me the same statement -- that their cocoa powder has Cd and other heavy metal contamination very much below that considered safe by the FDA -- but specific numbers weren't given (as the last time that I called). I did persuade the Consumers' Rep to whom I spoke to pass on my request -- for the results of a recent assay, as Warren had suggested -- and she agreed to do this; she took my address, telephone number and email.

 

So, I might receive additional information.

 

-- Saul

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Saul, thanks for checking into this! I'd love the details when you get them.

 

Nibs, very briefly, are what's produced in an early step in chocolate production. On Dr. Oz, Mike Adams said he found much less (he might even have said "none") cadmium in the nibs he tested (which surprised me, since I thought the cadmium came from the soil). I admit I still don't fully understand the details of cacao/chocolate production, though. This page seems to be the most useful of those I've found:

 

http://chocomap.com/chocolate-making-bean.php

 

And this:

 

http://www.divinechocolate.com/uk/about-us/research-resources/divine-story/bean-to-bar

 

Best,

Brian

 

P.S. Still no word from Navitas! And it looks like they've hidden the "Reviews" section -- which had a few comments about cadmium -- on their Facebook page.

 

https://www.facebook.com/NavitasNaturalsFan

 

Boycott!

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Hi Brian!

 

This is the answer that I obtained from the Hershey company, when I requested a recent assay of their Unsweetened Cocoa powder:

 

Hi Saul,

 

Thank you for contacting The Hershey Company.

 

Per your inquiry, there are safe, trace amounts of naturally occurring minerals in chocolate, just as in all foods that come from nature (grown in the ground).

 

Minerals - including lead and cadmium - are part of nature. Because they are present naturally in the soil and water where plants are grown, there are traces of minerals naturally occurring in virtually all foods, including fish, meat, grains, vegetables and fruits, including cocoa.

 

All Hershey products meet FDA standards and cocoa powder and chocolate are safe to eat.

 

People have been eating various quantities of cocoa and chocolate for centuries with no evidence of a single incident of concern regarding these naturally occur minerals.

 

Your interest in our company is appreciated.

 

Maria

Consumer Representative

 

008955734A

 

This email address is restricted for outgoing messages only. For that reason, please do not respond to this email as the inbox is not monitored.

 

My thoughts: Actually, after what I heard from Warren, I believe it. I'd like to see an assay -- but, since the FDA doesn't require it, my guess is that they won't supply it, except perhaps to a large wholesaler.

 

Concerning Cocoa Nibs: I did some searches on Google and Wikopedia: Cocoa nibs are simply pieces of cocoa beans; as such, of course, they are closer to the bean than cocoa powder, which is ground cocoa nibs (or whole beans?). So, a first guess would be that they are less likely to be contaminated (from handling, the atmosphere, etc.) -- but, considering Warren's thoughts, I think otherwise: Warren points out that some sights -- nibs or powder -- are contaminated. In the case of cocoa powder BOUGHT FROM THE LARGEST COMPANYS -- such as Hershey's in the US, and (whatever company in Europe from which Warren is purchasing his cocoa powder currently -- the largest in Europe) -- it is safe. The reason: these huge companies buy cocoa powder from very many sources around the world, and blend them. True, a few are contaminated -- but the vast majority aren't. So the actual contamination in the final product comes out minimal.

 

(An alternative: We could ask Warren to obtain a recent assay from the European company with which he deals -- and then buy from Warren. But, it is easier to buy Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder from my local supermarket.)

 

:)

 

-- Saul

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Saul,

 

Thanks so much for the information!

 

My thoughts: Actually, after what I heard from Warren, I believe it. I'd like to see an assay -- but, since the FDA doesn't require it, my guess is that they won't supply it, except perhaps to a large wholesaler.

 

I've gotten assays before from companies. I find it's hard for them to say no to a customer asking for that sort of information. I've never gotten a "No" before, though in a couple cases I've gotten silence....

 

Buying from the larger companies is a good strategy, but if cacao products from, say, Bali, are in general much lower in heavy metals than those from Africa or South America, I'd prefer to buy from a smaller company sourcing from Bali.

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I finally received a response from Navitas:

 

[...]

Navitas Naturals takes the Consumer Labs report very seriously and we are working diligently to learn more about the report, the specific lot that was tested, and various other factors that play a role in our ability to respond more comprehensively.

 

We are having a variety of products evaluated by third party labs and are awaiting the result of those tests in order to better understand the situation and best determine how to move forward.

 

Consumer safety and product purity and quality are major priorities for us. We will do whatever is necessary to make sure that the products we offer meet our high standards.

 

I will absolutely send you more information when we have it. Your patience is greatly appreciated.

[...]

 

And I will post whatever information they send, when they send it.

 

Brian

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Guest Ken Warm

Talanta. 2014 Feb 15;119:1-4. doi: 10.1016/j.talanta.2013.10.048. Epub 2013 Oct 28.

Trace elements in cocoa solids and chocolate: an ICPMS study.

Yanus RL1, Sela H2, Borojovich EJ2, Zakon Y3, Saphier M2, Nikolski A2, Gutflais E2, Lorber A2, Karpas Z2.

Author information

Abstract

The concentrations of eight trace elements: lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), manganese (Mn), cobalt (Co), arsenic (As), bismuth (Bi) and molybdenum (Mo), in chocolate, cocoa beans and products were studied by ICPMS. The study examined chocolate samples from different brands and countries with different concentrations of cocoa solids from each brand. The samples were digested and filtered to remove lipids and indium was used as an internal standard to correct matrix effects. A linear correlation was found between the level of several trace elements in chocolate and the cocoa solids content. Significant levels of Bi and As were found in the cocoa bean shells but not in the cocoa bean and chocolate. This may be attributed to environmental contamination. The presence of other elements was attributed to the manufacturing processes of cocoa and chocolate products. Children, who are big consumers of chocolates, may be at risk of exceeding the daily limit of lead; whereas one 10 g cube of dark chocolate may contain as much as 20% of the daily lead oral limit. Moreover chocolate may not be the only source of lead in their nutrition. For adults there is almost no risk of exceeding daily limits for trace metals ingestion because their digestive absorption of metals is very poor.

© 2013 Published by Elsevier B.V

 

ICPMS is a methodology, not an organization.The results are encouraging for adults, not so much for children.

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A week or two ago, I received a phone call from Arthur Mullin from Navitas. Navitas is taking the cadmium problem far more seriously than I'd realized -- so seriously they haven't had time to respond to consumer inquiries as promptly as they'd like to.

 

Navitas is currently looking at soil conditions at various locations where cacao is produced in order to find locations with lower cadmium levels. Arthur will be getting back to me when there is another update, and I will report back here.

 

By the way, the nibs really aren't as much of a problem as the powder, in general, because of where the cadmium is concentrated (not, it would appear, because of cadmium in grinding equipment, as Mike Adams speculates).

 

Brian

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Navitas is currently looking at soil conditions at various locations where cacao is produced in order to find locations with lower cadmium levels. Arthur will be getting back to me when there is another update, and I will report back here.

Thanks for following up! This is fantastic news. Perhaps if promote this in some way like putting a big label on their products advertising a low-cadmium product it will bring more public attention to environmental contamination of foods.

 

 

By the way, the nibs really aren't as much of a problem as the powder, in general, because of where the cadmium is concentrated (not, it would appear, because of cadmium in grinding equipment, as Mike Adams speculates).

If the cadmium contamination is mostly (entirely?) from the soil, I'd expect the nibs be just as much of a problem as the powder, as you similarly speculated. Some post-harvest/processing contamination (like lead!) comes from the fuel and pollution in those countries, so perhaps cadmium and others fall into this category as well. Rather than testing a handful of packages I think we'd need more thorough testing to get a better idea of what the average contamination of products is, and to better speculate as to why some are worse than others.

Edited by James Cain

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If the cadmium contamination is mostly (entirely?) from the soil, I'd expect the nibs be just as much of a problem as the powder, as you similarly speculated.

 

I meant concentrated in the various finished products. According to Arthur, the nibs will have less cadmium (per mass) because there tends to be less cadmium in the "butter" (the removal of which is part of what is involved in producing the powder).

 

In any event, yes to more testing! I'd love to see something for cacao products -- well, heck, for everything we consume! -- that's like the Ultra Premium standard for olive oil.

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Hi again, Brian!

 

One question is, "do you really want to eat the butter"? It probably is where most of the calories are, and little of the benefit. If so, the powder

would be more rational than the nibs. My guess: heavy metal contamination (above trace amounts that will be present in any brand) is a danger

mostly in dealing with smaller companies, that receive their cocoa from few -- or worse, just one -- source; at least, IMO, that's the current situation.

 

In searching the web on this topic a few weeks ago, I did note one piece of information that I think you might find encouraging: The European

Union is considering setting higher testing standards for heavy metal contamination is cocoa powder; they had set a deadline after which tougher

standards would be applied to all imported cocoa powder, with manditory testing. However, some of the poorer third world countries objected,

claiming that it would badly hurt their economies, since much of their income came from exporting polluted cocoa to Europe. The EU was

considering this before proceeding.

 

So, eventually, their MAY be tougher standards in the EU -- that, unfortunately, will probably not affect the currently poor standards by the FDA in

the US.

 

When Warren gets his new assay from the very large European company from which he buys, I would think that that will probably be the best place to buy -- either from Warren or that company.

(Warren will undoubtedly buy in large quantities at discounted prices which he'll partially pass on to us -- so, as usual, he'll probably be the best supplier of cocoa (almost undoubtedly as the powder, not the nibs)).

 

In the meantime, I'm happy with my Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder (that is also Kosher for Passover!) that I'm currently using.

 

:)

 

-- Saul

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One question is, "do you really want to eat the butter"? It probably is where most of the calories are, and little of the benefit. .

 

That the flavanol content of the butter would be lower than that of the powder would be my guess, but I have no evidence either way. Do you?

 

I think you're right that the danger of large amounts of contamination is greater with smaller companies, for the reasons you cite. But the odds of very low contamination is also greater with smaller companies, for the same reasons. The key is going by test results -- or, well, the key would be to go by test results, if we had more!

 

I had heard about the EU decision. My understanding is not simply that they're considering the new standards, but that the decision has been made. It's just that it won't go into effect for a while (2015 for products for children; otherwise 2019).

 

At this point, I feel like I want simply to trust Warren's research! This will make life easier.

 

Best,

Brian

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Guest Samantha C

Hello. Could anyone please shed light on Ghiradelli premium baking cocoa? I use this almost exclusively. Thanks!

 

Sammie

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Guest cynthia mccoy

Actually, according to consumerlabs.com, Hershey's cocoa DOES contain relatively high levels of cadmium--4.7 mcgs of cadmium per 5 gram serving, or 0.94 mcgs/gram. This level was not as high as some other products, such as NOW and Navitas naturals, which respectively contained 1.1 mcg cadmium/gm and 0.95 mcg./gm.

This is unfortunate, since Hershey's, despite being rather highly heat treated, does contain relatively high levels of flavanols and is quite inexpensive. Consumer Labs recommended that if you use Hershey's not to do so on a daily basis.

CocoaVia is quite expensive, but it had high levels of flavanols and NO cadmium or lead.

Nestle's, by the way, had somewhat lower levels of cadmium than Hershey's (0.55 mcg./gm)--BUT it also contained 0.27 mcg. of lead per gram!

It appears that cocoa has a strong affinity for cadmium in the soil, especially when zinc is low.

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