Are there heavy metals in your cacao?


Yes, 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 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 and so the uptake is minimal.

The level of heavy metals found in cacao beans varies based on the growing region, soil quality, environmental conditions and more. In general, South and Central American cacao tends to carry a higher heavy metal level, due to the mineral-rich, volcanic ash soils found there. Africa, another primary growing region for cacao, has soils that are typically lower in heavy metals.

After long sourcing our cacao beans from cacao’s country of origin—Peru—we now source them from Sierra Leone. (You can read more about why we made that decision here. Spoiler alert: it’s not just about the heavy metals!) 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 to low range for cacao. On average, we see 0.08mcg/g of lead and 0.49mcg/g of cadmium in our Cacao Powder, and 0.01mcg/g of lead and 0.35mcg/g of cadmium in our Cacao Nibs.

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.