Cadmium in chocolate: New EU regulation enter into force 1 January 2019
EU regulation from 2014, meant to reduce the dietary exposure to cadmium, gave ample of time to allow the cocoa producing countries and chocolate industry to adapt to these. The "new" regulation for maximum cadmium levels in cocoa products will finally enter into force on 1 January 2019.
Cadmium (Cd) is a toxic heavy metal found as an environmental contaminant as a result of both natural occurrence (from weathered rock) as well as human activities (mining, smelting, waste combustion, use of phosphate fertilizers). Cadmium is primarily toxic to the kidney and can cause renal failure. Cadmium can also cause bone demineralisation. Cadmium is classified as a human carcinogen (Group 1) on the basis of occupational studies. Newer data on human exposure to cadmium have indicated an increased risk of cancer such as in the lung, endometrium, bladder, and breast. Foodstuffs are the main source of cadmium exposure for the non-smoking general population. The mean dietary exposure for adults across Europe is close to or slightly exceeding the tolerable weekly intake, calling for stricter regulation reducing the exposure. Being present as a contaminant in soil, cadmium is reaching the crops being harvested from the contaminated soil. As a result, the food types that contribute most to the dietary cadmium exposure are cereals and cereal products, vegetables, nuts and pulses, starchy roots or potatoes, and meat and meat products from animals fed contaminated crops.
Cadmium in chocolate:
Cadmium in chocolate is the result of cadmium uptake from contaminated soil by the cocoa plant. Unfortunately, up to now, the cadmium cannot be extracted from the cocoa bean by an industrial process. Due to geochemical properties, cocoa from Latin America is more contaminated with cadmium than cocoa from West Africa.
Photo: The darker the chocolate, the higher the tolerated cadmium level
In view of a possible reduction of dietary exposure to cadmium, existing maximum levels have recently been reviewed and additional maximum levels have been established for food commodities of concern for which no maximum levels existed yet. These new maximum levels aim especially at an increased protection of infants and young children and concern chocolate and several categories of infant formula.
For chocolate, three maximum levels have been established depending on the content of the chocolate varieties. The strictest maximum levels apply to the chocolate varieties mostly eaten by children. The darker the chocolate, the higher the maximum levels are. A fourth maximum level is set for cocoa powder destined for direct consumption. The maximum tolerated levels are as follows:
milk chocolate with <30 % total cocoa solids: 0.10 mg/kg
chocolate with < 50 % total cocoa solids: 0.30 mg/kg
chocolate with >= 50% total dry cocoa solids: 0.80 mg/kg
cocoa powder sold to the final consumer : 0.60 mg/kg
These maximum levels will enter into force on 1 January 2019.
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