Consuming cacao can replenish minerals vital to our body. Magnesium is chronically deficient in the majority of western diets, and cacao is the highest naturally occurring source. Magnesium is used in all key brain functions, especially memory and concentration. It is also beneficial for the function of the heart, acting to relax blood vessels and decrease strain. Besides magnesium, cacao is also the highest naturally occurring source of chromium, and also high in copper, calcium, manganese, zinc, sulfur, iron, and phosphorus.
Heavy Metal Safety
Our cacao has been lab tested for safety and meets comprehensive EU standards for absence of heavy metals. In particular all our cacao tests below detectable thresholds for lead, and all our cacao tests below government mandated limits for cadmium. We actually test for 68 different heavy metals, but our focus here is on lead and cadmium as those are of most public discussion.
So why is our cacao so much safer than other chocolate products out there?
Let’s look at cadmium specifically. Cadmium uptake is dependent on many variables, including cacao genotype, cacao tree age, and other trace metals present in the soil. Notably, the more depleted the soil is of other beneficial minerals such such as Zn, Ca, Mg, and Mn, and the younger the trees are, the higher the Cadmium uptake is. Because our cacao sourcing is focused more on quality than quantity, it is not farmed as intensively as the majority of global monoculture cacao production. Rather, our trees tend to be older and within polyculture agroforestry systems with rich soils - all factors that reduce cadmium uptake. The permaculture practices that our farmers use also regularly replenish the soils. So really, cadmium uptake has a substantial amount to do with farm management practices.
It’s also interesting to note that cadmium is first accumulated in leaves, then cacao pod shells, then cacao beans. Proper handling and shelling of cacao beans can remove the husk, which has a higher concentration than the edible part, the bean. We take great care in our cracking and winnowing process to remove as much shell as possible, which also reduces cadmium concentration in the final product. With our recent factory upgrade, we actually acquired a cracker and winnower that is a state of the art German design, used in the chocolate industry for over fifty years! This results in the cleanest cacao nibs possible.
Heavy Metals Regulation
Here we’ll go through the California Prop 65 and European Union regulations that set clear limits for lead and cadmium in food products, and our test results, to give you full transparency and real numbers to look at.
Many people don’t know that Prop 65 was amended in 2018 as a result of a settlement of a law suit by As You Sow against chocolate manufacturers. Originally the suit was brought against Trader Joes in November 2015, but because manufacturers and not retailers bear the obligation of Prop 65 compliance, the suit was brought against some of the major chocolate manufacturers: Barry Callebaut USA, LLC, Blommer Chocolate Co., Cargill, Inc., The Hershey Company, Lindt & Sprungli (including its affiliated company Ghiradelli Chocolate Company), Guittard Chocolate Company, Mars Incorporated, Mondelez International, and Nestle USA.
The settlement of the lawsuit in 2018 acknowledged that Prop 65 thresholds were set too low for naturally occurring levels of cadmium in chocolate, effectively resulting with all chocolate in violation of Prop 65. Prop 65 was amended for the following thresholds based on the latest science, which are similar to the thresholds established in the European Union as well. This settlement has become the industry standard by which lead and cadmium thresholds in chocolate are evaluated, and all manufacturers (like ourselves) are encouraged to regularly test for these heavy metals.
Concentration above which a warning is required in parts per million (ppm) 2019-2025, and then from 2025 onwards
The 2019 EU regulations are similar, even though slightly differently defined. Their metric units are in mg/kg - fortunately 1 mg/kg = 1 ppm, making the translation 1:1. They define a maximum of 0.80 mg/kg, or 0.80 ppm, for cacao percentages of 50% and up.
Given these regulations, what does our own third party testing show? Our test results are as follows:
You can see that all of our origins fall significantly below the 0.960ppm threshold for Cadmium and 0.225ppm threshold for lead currently specified in Prop 65. So you can rest assured that you won’t poison yourself with cadmium and lead from drinking your daily cup of cacao, and that instead more likely you will benefit from the many beneficial trace minerals present in cacao, like Magnesium, Zinc, and Manganese!
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