Toxic metals in chocolate? Health Canada finds levels of no concern after US report – National |

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Last month, Consumer Reports (CR) revealed that dozens of dark chocolate products sold in the US contain cadmium and lead, two heavy metals that can cause a variety of health problems, including kidney damage and suppression of the immune system, both in children and adults.

Some of the products listed in the report include Hershey’s, Theo’s, Trader Joe’s and Lindt chocolates, among other popular brands, many of which are sold here in Canada. However, based on assessments by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada, the levels of metals detected in these products do not presently pose a risk to consumers.

“If a product presents a risk, the CFIA will determine the most appropriate actions to mitigate the risk,” the food inspection agency said in an email to Global News on Thursday.

“If a recall is decided as one of the actions, details about the recalled product are available on the Government of Canada’s Safety Alerts and Recalls website.”

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Reuters reported Monday that Trader Joe’s has been sued at least nine times by consumers over its dark chocolate since Consumer Reports published its study on December 15 last year. Hershey’s and Mondelez have also been sued over the findings, as have other chocolate makers, including Godiva and Lindt.

The CFIA, however, says that while the agency is aware of the published report, it has conducted its own surveys in the past to look at a variety of contaminants in food.

“A selection of foods that included chocolate were investigated for lead and cadmium, among other contaminants, in 2012-13 and 2017-18,” the CFIA said.

Of the products tested, none had high or unsafe levels of heavy metals, according to the agency.

Why are there toxic metals in food?

According to the Canadian government website, lead and cadmium are “natural metals” that enter the environment through natural and industrial processes and end up in the air, soil, and bodies of water.

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They can also be found in food, drinking water, and household dust.

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The website says that lead levels in the environment have “decreased significantly in recent decades due to the discontinued use of lead paint, gasoline, and the solder used in food cans.”

Lead and cadmium are not allowed to be added to food, the government says, but because of their widespread presence in the environment, they are detected in all foods, usually at very low levels.

What are the acceptable levels of lead and cadmium in food?

Health Canada and the CFIA routinely monitor cadmium and lead concentrations in a wide variety of foods sold in Canada, including chocolate products, the food inspection agency told Global News.

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The agency said Health Canada has conducted “scientific cadmium and lead assessments of all foods,” showing that chocolate contributes less than five percent to “overall dietary exposure of these trace elements and that chocolate consumption by part of the Canadian population does not represent a health problem”.

“As a result, no need to establish specific maximum levels (MLs) for cadmium and lead in chocolate products sold in Canada has been identified,” the agency added.

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Could low levels of metals still be considered dangerous?

According to Tunde Akinleye, the Consumer Reports food safety researcher who oversaw the chocolate tests, there is a risk that “consistent long-term exposure to even trace amounts of heavy metals can lead to a variety of health problems.” and that it is better not to be a frequent consumer of these products.

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“The danger is greatest for pregnant people and young children because metals can cause developmental problems, affect brain development and lead to lower IQ … but there are risks for people of any age,” Akinyeye said at the published report.

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He said these risks include nervous system problems, high blood pressure, immune system suppression, kidney damage and reproductive problems.

The report states, however, that “a single ounce of even one of the chocolates with the highest levels of cadmium and lead in CR tests is unlikely to cause immediate harm.” The risk comes with having too much contaminated chocolate.

Consumer Reports also noted that these heavy metals are already being absorbed into our bodies from other important, healthy foods, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach, “so it’s best to only eat dark chocolate once in a while.” “.

“Having a serving a few days a week, especially with a product that has lower levels, means you can eat dark chocolate without worrying too much,” Akinleye said.

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— With Reuters files

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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