The Hershey Company is being sued for failing to disclose the presence of lead and cadmium in several of its dark chocolate bars.
The proposed class action, filed by Christopher Lazazzaro of New York, comes just two weeks after Consumer Reports issued a warning about harmful heavy metals in dark chocolate bars made by companies such as Lindt, Ghirardelli, and Hershey’s.
According to Consumer Reports, just one ounce of three Hershey’s dark chocolate bars violates California’s maximum allowed dose levels (MADL) for lead or cadmium: Hershey’s Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate, Lily’s Extra Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa, and Lily’s Extreme Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa.
In June 2021, Hershey’s paid $425 million for Lily’s, which sells non-GMO and gluten-free chocolate.
The suit seeks $5 million from Hershey’s, claiming that the company’s an advertising and marketing effort for dark chocolate bars was “false, deceptive, and misleading.” The plaintiffs’ attorneys contend that if Hershey’s had revealed on the label that the dark chocolate bars included lead and cadmium, Lazazzaro would not have purchased them.
“Consumers reasonably rely on the marketing and information on Defendant’s labels in making purchasing decisions,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote in court. “By marketing the Products as containing only dark chocolate ingredients, and not disclosing the presence of cadmium and lead, Defendant misleads reasonable consumers.”
According to Christopher Gindlesperger, a spokesperson for the National Confectioners Association, which represents chocolate companies such as Hershey’s, Lindt, and Godiva, “the products cited in this study are in compliance with strict quality and safety requirements, and the levels provided to us by Consumer Reports testing are well under the limits established by our settlement [with As You Sow].”
In 2018, the association established an agreement with As You Sow, a group that pushes for the enforcement of Proposition 65, which is responsible for California’s restrictions. The settlement established to lead and cadmium concentration standards that, if exceeded, need warning labels.
“High levels of lead and cadmium in food products is material to reasonable consumers, because these chemicals pose serious health risk, even in small dosages,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys stated.
Experts say California’s Proposition 65 limits, and MADLs in general, are meant to be “very conservative” in order to account for persons in higher-risk categories.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine toxicologist Andrew Stolbach, the heavy metal levels in these dark chocolate bars “isn’t something to be concerned about.”
The US Food and Drug Administration has more flexible recommendations for daily lead intake than California does.