Many people believe that dark chocolate is a healthier choice than other sweets, but the complaint for this class action says that a recent testing of twenty-eight dark chocolate bars by Consumer Reports shows concerning levels of lead and cadmium in some of them. The complaint brings suit against Trader Joe’s Company for the heavy metals found in its Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate 85% Cacao bar and Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao bar.
Two classes have been defined for this action:
- The National Class is all persons in the US who bought the products in the US during the maximum time allowable by law.
- The California Class is all persons in the US who bought the products in the US during the maximum time allowable by law.
Consumer Reports issued its report on December 15, 2022. As a measure, the complaint says, Consumer Reports adopted California’s maximum allowable dose level (MADL), which is 0.05 micrograms for lead and 4.1 micrograms for cadmium.
The Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate 72% bar showed lead at 192% of the MADL, the complaint alleges, while the Dark Chocolate Lover’s 85% bar showed lead at 127% of the MADL and cadmium 229% of the MADL.
The complaint calls the two heavy metals “known carcinogens.” It quotes a publication from the World Health Organization as saying, “There is no level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects.”
“Indeed,” the complaint alleges, “lead affects almost every organ and system in the body and accumulates over time, leading to severe health risks and toxicity, including inhibiting neurological function, anemia, kidney damage, seizures, and in extreme cases, coma and death. … Lead has been widely recognized as the single most significant environmental health threat to children.”
The complaint alleges that the lead accumulates on or in the cocoa beans during their handling after harvest and while they are drying. According to the complaint, “[t]he source of post-harvest lead in cocoa beans is therefore the result of poor manufacturing practices—an entirely avoidable phenomenon.”
Cadmium also accumulates in the body, the complaint alleges, and can cause harm even at low dosages, including liver, kidney, and heart damage, and in severe cases, even death. Children are also more susceptible to the effects of cadmium and exposure can lead to developmental and neurobehavioral problems.
Cadmium in cocoa beans comes “through direct uptake of phytoavailable cadmium by the cocoa tree” before the beans are harvested, the complaint alleges, adding, “The origin of cadmium in these cocoa-growing soils is a mixture of natural and anthropogenic sources and is country- and farm-specific.” The complaint claims, “Responsible manufacturers are aware of cadmium levels in the soils where cocoa is sourced…”
The complaint alleges that Trader Joe’s has known about the levels of lead and cadmium in its chocolate bars since 2014, when other testing showed the presence of these carcinogens. However, the complaint claims that the company has neither warned consumers nor removed the heavy metals from its products.