If you are like me, my consumption of chocolates goes up maybe 200% during the Christmas season. Truffles, Marie’s, Ghirardelli’s, chocolate turtles, chocolate drops, white chocolate, Belgium chocolates – how many more of them can I name? So other than putting on a few pounds or messing up my complexion, why worry?

Here is the real scoop. Chocolates contain relatively high levels of toxic heavy metals. Especially worrisome is cadmium and lead. Consumer Report reported that 23 of the 28 brands of all the dark chocolate candy bars tested contained levels of cadmium and lead heavy metals at levels that are considered toxic to humans. Brands checked included Dove, Ghirardelli, and lesser-known brands such as Alter Eco and Mast. You also can’t escape potential toxicity by sticking to milk chocolate. Milk chocolate has also a heavy metal contamination issue but not quite as high. Yet, I acknowledge that chocolate contains flavanols which are shown to promote the human immune response. Kind of counterintuitive, huh?

One candy bar daily from these brands put the lead and cadmium levels over the dietary safe level for adults. Lead is especially worrisome for children who are vulnerable at much lower toxicity levels to developmental problems , impaired brain function, lower IQ scores and other issues. Lead exposure in adults can lead to neurological problems, hypertension, and an impaired immune system.

For this reason, lead has been banned in paint and plumbing since 1996. Readers may remember the 1990’s health scandal in Flint, Michigan caused by old lead-containing plumbing all over the city had not been replaced even when the issues with lead toxicity had been reported years earlier. After this discovery, for several years, the city had to provide bottled water for children and adults while a solution was sought for the lead toxicity. The old system water supply could be used for showers but not consumed. Don’t forget that lead-containing gasoline was also used by everyone with a vehicle until it was finally banned in 1996.

Chocolate candy is the major heavy metal concern for health scientists but don’t forget these heavy metals may also lurk in products such as hot chocolate, brownies, ice cream and cake mixes.

Lead contamination occurs because of exposure to soil and dust contamination on the outside shell of the cocoa bean in harvesting and processing. There are obvious solutions to lead contamination. It’s not hard - methods that lessen exposure to soil and lead-filled dust during harvest and processing.

Cadmium however is commonly found in soil and is incorporated into the cacao or cocoa bean during the growing season. Cocoa solids, the key ingredient of chocolate, is where this heavy metal hides.

Solving the problem with cadmium contamination incorporated into the cocoa bean isn’t so easy. Strategies being considered are breeding cocoa plants that absorb less cadmium or possibly replacing older cocoa trees with young trees that haven’t yet had cadmium uptake. Either of these solutions being considered would take years to fully implement and pricey.

There is an organization named As You Sow that has called for more accountability from the chocolate industry. Recent litigation by this organization has resulted in further chocolate research funded by the chocolate industry with regards to heavy metal contamination in food.

Before you get your knickers twisted into a wad and causing a wedgy, don’t forget these issues with heavy metals have also been reported as problematic in organic and conventionally produced sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots and spinach.

My own opinion is to eat a wide variety of foods but do not consume either dark or light chocolate every day.

My confession is that I only consumed one small packet of M&M’s while wailing away on this commentary.