Trace amounts of lead and cadmium are inherent to virtually all cacao beans, including ours.
Small and bushy, cacao trees are deeply rooted and noted for their ability to extract nutrients from the soil. In fact, this is part of the reason that cacao is prized as a superfood! The expansive root system absorbs impressive amounts of beneficial minerals from the soil—like iron, magnesium, manganese and copper—and stores them in the developing cacao bean. When you enjoy minimally processed cacao products, like our Cacao Powder and Cacao Nibs, you consume these valuable nutrients.
However, heavy metals like lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury are also found in the soil. While we tend to associate these metals with human pollution, that’s not always the case; these metals are geological substances that occur naturally around the globe. Happily, the cacao tree does not require them for growth and development so their uptake is minimal, when compared to other minerals.
The level of heavy metals found in cacao beans varies based on the growing region, soil quality, age of the trees, environmental conditions of each growing season, and more. All of our finished cacao products are tested for heavy metals using third party, independent labs. Usually—but not always—trace amounts of lead and cadmium are present in the results. We monitor these levels carefully to ensure that they are within a normal range for cacao and not the result of environmental contamination.
Generally, cacao powder carries the highest concentration of heavy metals. It's made by essentially concentrating the solids of the cacao bean and removing the oils (known as cacao butter). Our current average cadmium content in our Cacao Powder is 0.4mcg/g. For lead, it's 0.01mcg/g. When cacao powder is combined with other ingredients—like cacao butter and sweeteners—to make chocolate bars and candies, the concentration of heavy metals per food serving decreases.
Heavy metals are found in a long list of common food items like leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and many fruits. The healthy body is adept at removing these metals through a complex and highly evolved detoxification system that sorts, tags, and eliminates heavy metals through our body’s waste pathways. We can support these processes by eating a diet rich in micronutrients and fiber, both of which are abundant in cacao.
If you have specific questions about how heavy metals might interact with your personal health state, we recommend discussing them with your health practitioner. And if you have any further questions about our cacao products, please reach out to us here.