Trader Joe's and Hershey are facing $5 million lawsuit over toxic metals in their chocolates

Anna S.
Photo byNY Post

Class-action lawsuits have been filed against Trader Joe's and The Hershey Company due to the quantity of lead and cadmium in select dark chocolate products.

Trader Joe's is facing a class-action lawsuit for allegedly putting customers' health at risk by failing to disclose on the packaging that some dark chocolate products contain lead and cadmium. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York and follows a similar case against The Hershey Company. The lawsuits stem from a Consumer Reports investigation that found heavy metals in 28 chocolate bars, with potentially harmful levels detected in 23 of them for adults who eat one ounce per day.

"In late 2022, a study in Consumer Reports claimed that dark chocolate from Trader Joe's and many other brands, including Dove, Lindt, and Hershey's, contained unsafe levels of lead, as well as cadmium. While some brands had one or the other, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Lover's Chocolate 85% Cacao was substantially high in both contaminants."

The lawsuits claim that the corporations misled customers by neglecting to disclose on the package that certain dark chocolate products contain lead and cadmium.

Consumer Reports used California's maximum allowable dose level for cadmium and lead to assess the potential risk of heavy metal presence in each chocolate product:

In one ounce of "Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao," lead was found to be 192% of the maximum allowable dose level in California. "Trader Joe's The Dark Chocolate Lover's Chocolate 85% Cacao" was high in both lead and cadmium, at 127% and 229% of the maximum allowable dose level, respectively. "Hershey’s Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate" and "Lily’s Extra Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa" were found to be high in lead at 265% and 144% of the state's maximum doses, respectively. "Lily’s Extreme Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa" was high in lead at 143% and cadmium at 101%.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that consuming large amounts of cadmium can cause severe stomach irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea. Breathing is another way to be exposed to cadmium, particularly when breathing in tobacco smoke, which over time and in high doses can cause kidney disease, brittle bones, and cancer.

"So what’s so bad about these chemicals? “Cadmium is toxic to our kidneys and can impact the minerals in our bones,” Wells says of the toxin, which is classified as a carcinogen. “Lead can impact all our organs, but often impacts our brain. Long-term elevated exposure to lead can impact memory, attention, and the ability to learn and focus,”

The legal move follows a Consumer Reports analysis in December that identified potentially hazardous amounts of heavy metals in dark chocolate made by Trader Joe's and Hershey, among other brands.
Photo byHershey´s

The lawsuits were brought by the same four law firms against both Trader Joe's Company and The Hershey Company; the latter also names T.A.C.T. Holding, Inc. as a defendant. The Consumer Reports article and other public studies and articles, according to the two lawsuits, disclosed that the goods contain "unsafe amounts of lead and cadmium."

The suit demanded the company pay at least $5 million in damages over the “serious health risk” posed by heavy metals in its “Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate.”

Two class-action lawsuits claim that the Trader Joe's Company and The Hershey Company used "false, deceptive, and misleading" advertising and marketing by not disclosing the presence of lead and cadmium in some of their dark chocolate products. The lawsuits state that high levels of these heavy metals in food products pose serious health risks, and that consumers rely on packaging and labeling to make informed purchasing decisions. Both suits feature plaintiffs who claim they would not have purchased the products or would not have paid the same price had they known about the heavy metal content.

Trader Joe's and Hershey's are not the only ones

The lawsuits include the following brands and chocolates:

  • Alter Eco Organic Dark Chocolate Classic Blackout 85% Cacao
  • Beyond Good Organic Pure Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa
  • Beyond Good Organic Pure Dark Chocolate 80% Cocoa
  • Chocolove Strong Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa
  • Chocolove Extreme Dark Chocolate 88% Cocoa
  • Dove Promises Deeper Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao
  • Endangered Species Bold + Silky Dark Chocolate 72% Cocoa
  • Equal Exchange Organic Extra Dark Chocolate 80% Cacao
  • Godiva Signature Dark Chocolate 72% Cocoa
  • Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao
  • Hershey’s Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate
  • Hu Organic Simple Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao
  • Lily’s Extra Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa
  • Lily’s Extremely Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa
  • Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa
  • Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa
  • Pascha Organic Very Dark Dark Chocolate 85% Cacao
  • Scharffen Berger Extra Dark Chocolate 82% Cacao
  • Theo Organic Pure Dark 70% Cocoa
  • Theo Organic Extra Dark Pure Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa
  • Tony’s Chocolonely Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa
  • Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao
  • Trader Joe’s The Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate 85% Cacao

"There were a number of news articles about cadmium and lead in dark chocolate recently, and it made me incredibly anxious as someone who eats very dark chocolate every day — including during my pregnancy and breastfeeding! What would experts say about how much I should worry? The bad news came in mid-December: Consumer Reports published an investigation showing that 23 of the 28 dark chocolate bars it had tested from various brands contained concerning levels of lead, cadmium or both. Research has previously shown that consuming dark chocolate may have several health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, better cholesterol and a reduced risk of heart disease. So the news that it could also contain toxic heavy metals has worried many consumers."

In another study published in, cadmium and lead levels were discovered in a number of fruits and vegetables, including frozen strawberries and raspberries, fresh beets, frozen carrots and tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and spinach.

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