Trader Joe’s chocolate has unsafe lead, cadmium levels, lawsuit alleges
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Two store-brand dark chocolate products made by grocery chain Trader Joe’s have unsafe levels of potentially toxic heavy metals, according to a pair of new lawsuits from New York.
A New York man and woman in separate suits accused the popular retailer of “deceptive and deceptive business practices” over its marketing of Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate and Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate, according to lawsuits filed Wednesday. in federal courts in the East. and Western Districts of New York, respectively.
The lead plaintiffs in each lawsuit, Thomas Ferrante of Brooklyn and Tamakia Herb of Manhattan, claim the grocery chain failed to disclose to consumers that two chocolate products contained dangerous levels of cadmium and lead. Excessive exposure to lead can cause a host of health problems in children and adults, including lowering children’s IQ. Cadmium, considered a possible human carcinogen, can cause kidney, liver and bone damage.
In both lawsuits, the plaintiffs cite a Dec. 15, 2022 story in Consumer Reports, warning that although dark chocolate is known to have certain health benefits, the chocolate industry has struggled to reduce the levels of cadmium and lead in its products. Consumer Reports measured heavy metal levels in 28 dark chocolate bars and found that five of them were above the safe threshold for both cadmium and lead, including one from Trader Joe’s.
California-based Trader Joe’s did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment about the lawsuits.
How much lead is in your chocolate?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers cadmium a “cancer-causing agent” and warns that exposure over time through air, food, water, and tobacco smoke “can build up cadmium in the kidneys and cause kidney disease and brittle bones”. The CDC also states that “no safe blood lead level has been identified in children” and that even low levels have been found to impair “a child’s intelligence, attention span, and academic achievement.”
In its test, Consumer Reports found that Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate 85% Cacao contained 229 percent of California’s maximum allowable level of cadmium and 127 percent of the state’s threshold for lead. The company’s “72% cocoa dark chocolate” was found to contain 192 percent of its standard for lead.
Lead and cadmium have been difficult to remove from dark chocolate products because cocoa plants can pick up cadmium from the soil as they grow, while lead is found in the outer shell of the cocoa bean after harvest, according to Herb’s lawsuit. . But it is not “inevitable” that they are present at dangerous levels, its filing said, as other brands of dark chocolate were found to have levels that met safety standards.
Ferrante’s lawsuit alleges Trader Joe’s must have known about the chemicals and intentionally failed to disclose them. The grocery chain tests its products for safety and also receives documents from the suppliers of the ingredients it uses about the chemical levels in those products — information consumers have no way of knowing.
“These documents and their testing alerted the defendants to the moment [sic] of harmful chemicals, such as lead and cadmium”, the file states. “Consequently, Defendants had exclusive knowledge of the levels of lead and cadmium in the Products. …”
Herb’s lawsuit also points out that Trader Joe’s positions itself as a food for health-conscious shoppers and as a “consumer-friendly” brand, using handwritten signs, employees in Hawaiian shirts and a curated product list to reinforce that impression. . “Consequently, consumers believe that the limited selection of foods offered by the defendant have been verified for their safety for human consumption,” her lawsuit states.
Both lawsuits allege the grocery chain violated New York laws prohibiting deceptive practices, false advertising and unjust enrichment, and seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. Ferrante’s is also seeking damages that could run into the hundreds of dollars per sale, while Herb’s is asking that Trader Joe’s be stopped from selling the products until they are “accurately labeled.”
Herb’s lawyers filed a similar lawsuit last month against Hershey, which makes another of the chocolate bars that were flagged in Consumer Reports’ testing. Hershey’s “Special Dark Sweet Chocolate” was found to have 265 percent of California’s maximum allowable dose of lead.