Trader Joe’s Facing Legal Scrutiny Due To Harmful Ingredients Found In Its Chocolate Products

Heightened levels of lead and cadmium have been detected in some of Trader Joe's chocolate bars, including the Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate 85% Cacao bars and Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao bars.

By Tori Hook | Published

trader joe's dark chocolate factory

Fan-favorite grocery store Trader Joe’s is facing a lawsuit for selling dark chocolate that contains potentially harmful amounts of lead and cadmium. This follows news of a similar lawsuit against Hershey’s in late December and a Consumer Reports study testing popular dark chocolate bars for heavy metals. Shockingly, nearly two dozen dark chocolate bars had harmful levels of lead or cadmium.

The Consumer Reports study used California’s maximum allowable dose level (MADL) as its benchmark for harmful heavy metals, and only five chocolate bars passed the test. According to NBC News, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao had harmful levels of lead and The Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate 85% Cacao had high levels of both lead and cadmium. Trader Joe’s has yet to comment publicly on the study.

Lead and cadmium are both elements that can be found in the earth’s crust and, although they are naturally occurring there, they can also enter the environment through industrial sites and contaminated environments. Soil is usually the culprit for heavy metals in chocolate, as the roots of the cacao beans soak up minerals and metals in the soil, whether naturally occurring or because of proximity to industrial sites. Thorough soil testing usually prevents the production of products that have high levels of these dangerous metals.

While many Trader Joe’s customers are outraged about the news from the Consumer Reports study, a spokesperson for the National Confectioner’s Association said that the MADL benchmarks used in the study weren’t the same as food safety standards. The spokesperson spoke to the centuries-long history of humans enjoying chocolate and cocoa and said that all products in the Consumer Reports study comply with rigorous food safety and quality standards. But many consumers believe that those standards should be higher.

The lawsuit against Trader Joe’s was filed on behalf of a New York consumer, by a group of law firms that specialize in class-action suits. The suit does not hinge on Trader Joe’s levels of lead and cadmium in their dark chocolate bars, but rather on the failure of the company to warn consumers about those levels. Only time will tell if the Consumer Reports study has a lasting effect on the chocolate industry.

If you can’t part with your Trader Joe’s dark chocolate, don’t worry! There are still lots of safe options at everyone’s favorite market, including their ever-popular Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, sold both by the box and in tiny individually-sized bags at the register—perfect for an afternoon treat! But if you want to switch to a safer brand of dark chocolate, try Mast, Taza, Ghirardelli, or Valrhona, available at many mainstream or health-conscious grocery stores.

While the Consumer Reports study has shocked and rocked customers across the country, it’s unlikely that Trader Joe’s customer base will change significantly. It’s friendly atmosphere, rows of unique snacks and frozen items, and frequent limited-time releases keep customers coming back for more. You can keep shopping for your Joe-Joes and frozen Tikka Masala, just maybe steer clear of the dark chocolate.