Dark chocolate: These unwanted chemicals were found in test

7. feb 2018

Dark chocolate may contain unwanted chemicals such as cadmium, mineral oils and PAHs.


Dark chocolate: These unwanted chemicals were found in tests
Photo: Benjamin Media

Test: These bars of dark chocolate receive the best assessment

A test of 12 bars of dark chocolate from The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals showed that all the chocolates contained unwanted substances. The problematic substances, however, vary widely in quantity.

Lindt Excellence 70% Dark and Tom's Extra Dark Chocolate 70% had the lowest content of unwanted substances. These chocolates are the best choices in the test.

See the test of chocolate in Danish with product pictures and assessments

Unwanted chemicals: 1 chocolate has very high cadmium content

All the chocolates in the test contained the heavy metal cadmium.

Cadmium is transferred from the soil to the cocoa beans and therefore ends up in the finished bar of chocolate.

Particularly one chocolate, Valrhona's Noir Andoa 70% chocolate, had a high content of cadmium which was well above the coming EU limit for cadmium in dark chocolate.

An entire bar of Valrhonas chocolate covers your maximum intake of cadmium for about 4 days.

18 grams of the chocolate contain the daily amount of cadmium that the authorities consider as safe. Exceeding this limit does not pose an acute risk but could be a long-term risk.

Read about all tests of chemicals in consumer products from the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

Cadmium: The heavy metal can accumulate in liver and kidney

Cadmium is a heavy metal that can accumulate in your liver and kidneys. In the longer term, it may be harmful to health and can among other things cause kidney damage.

Cacao beans, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, prawns, grains and different vegetables are among the foods where the heavy metal can occur naturally.

Consumers should consider daily intake of dark chocolate

The other tested chocolates all had cadmium content below the coming EU limit value.

However, in several cases the cadmium content was so high that if you would consume 100 to 150 grams of chocolate the safe intake per day would be exceeded.

The Danish Food and Veterinary Authorities advice consumers to expect that a 100 gram bar of dark chocolate contains the maximum tolerable daily amount of cadmium.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals: You already get high amounts of cadmium

"The problem is that you are already exposed to relatively high amounts of cadmium from food sources other than chocolate. The substance is present in cereals and vegetables, and in particular in grains and seeds like flax- and sunflower seeds. Therefore, it is important to consider your intake of dark chocolate as the content of cadmium in dark chocolate is so high and combined with other sources of cadmium you can easily get too much."

Stine Müller, project manager in The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

Other pollutants: Dark chocolate also contained these substances

PAHs (polyaromatic hydrocarbons) and mineral oils were found in all the tested chocolates.

PAHs are tar substances which are suspected of causing cancer. Mineral oils are another group of problematic substances that can accumulate in the  organs of the body and also is suspected of being carcinogenic.

Chocolates may have been contaminated with these substances from different sources during the production.

The concentration of the unwanted substances in the chocolate was below the EU limit values. But since both groups of substances might cause cancer the content should be as low as possible.

How did we test the chocolate?

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has sent 12 bars of dark chocolate for testing in a chemical laboratory.

All the products had a cacao content of 70 percent.

The chocolate was examined for content of:

  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Mineral oils - the so-called MOSH and MOAH
  • Poly aromatic hydrocarbons – also called PAHs

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals’ test methods

What we found in the bars of chocolate
All of the 12 bars of dark chocolate in the test contained one or more of the four unwanted substances tested for.

The evaluation of the 12 products was as follows:

  • 2 bars of chocolate are good choices. They had the lowest content of unwanted substances in the test.
  • 5 bars of chocolate contain some of the problematic substances - although in relatively low concentrations and all below the limit values.
  • 5 bars of chocolate had a higher content of one or more of the problematic substances. In one chocolate, the content of cadmium was above the coming limit value for dark chocolate. 2 other bars of chocolate had a content of mineral oils (MOAH) while the last 2 chocolates showed a higher content of PAHs. The content of PAHs was below existing limit values, but higher than the content of the other products.

See the test of chocolate in Danish with product pictures and assessments

What the companies say


"Cadmium is sometimes present in the soil where cocoa beans are grown, especially in Peru, where this chocolate originates from. Valrhona is very aware of the production of chocolate that meets the applicable limit values. Right now, there are no limit values, but they will be introduced in 2019. We are working intensively with the Peruvian cooperative that produces the cacao beans, to ensure that Andoa Noir 70% will meet the applicable limit values ​​in 2019."

Patricia Grange, Marketing Director of Valrhona

Lidl, responsible for Fairglobe:

"In Lidl we are testing and developing our products in collaboration with our suppliers and the content of mineral oils is one of the areas we focus on. We take the Danish Consumer Councils tests of our product very seriously. We will investigate what has caused the tested level of mineral oils, as our internal, regular studies show a lower level of mineral oils.”

Henriette Tang Angle, Communications Consultant in Lidl

Aldi, responsible for Moser Roth:

"We are sorry that traces of mineral oils have been found in our chocolate, especially because we have been working to phase-out mineral oils in cooperation with our supplier, Storck. In June, our supplier switched production to the new packaging, which is free of mineral oils. "

Helle Pedersen, Quality Manager at Aldi

Comment from The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals: It is chocolate with the old packaging that has been tested. Chocolate in the new packaging has not been tested.

Danish Supermarket, Responsible for Vores Dark Chocolate:

"Chocolate fully meets the requirements of the law for the ingredients tested. The limit value ​​for PAHs has recently been lowered and both chocolates comply with the new requirement. Manufacturers are continuously testing to ensure that the content of PAHs does not exceed the legal limits."

Carina Jensen, Quality Manager at Dansk Supermarked Group

Mondelez, responsible for Marabou:

"We comply with all relevant rules and comply with the highest standards at global, EU and national level. The test results show that the content of the substances are within typical values ​​for chocolate, including chocolate with high cocoa content."

Thomas Gustavsson, Quality Leader Nordic, Mondelez