What's In Your Gourmet Kitchen? - Part 5

So what does this mean for chocolate and children? Since children seem to be the one to consume quite a bit of chocolate, especially in this country. Well, if you have a five year-old and you gave him a small, single serving of chocolate pieces, you would find approximately 1.4 µg of Lead, which is higher than the total consumption of Lead that they are allowed from all sources. If you gave a 6-year old a dark chocolate bar, if estimated that his blood level of Lead would increase up to 21 %. And the EPA has stated that for every µg of Lead a child ingested, if their blood level raises by 0.16 µg/dl, that one 1 µg/dl increase in blood concentration equals to a loss of a quarter to an IQ point or more.

So why are there toxic metals in chocolate? Toxic metals are in the soil. The metals come from different fertilizers and different runoffs from industries absorbed by the cocoa plants and then they go and concentrate in the beans. Mercury, Cadmium and Lead depends on a lot of conditions, the soil being one of them.

It’s been found that Cadmium in the Central American cocoa is higher than the Cadmium levels in African cocoa. And if you look at different types of fertilizers and pesticides in Africa like the Ivory Coast in Ghana, they use fertilizers which are contaminated with heavy metals, which then concentrate in the plants themselves.

And finally there are alkalizing agents, agents they use to treat and process the cocoa which may have heavy metals in it.

So what are our conclusions when we look at chocolate? Well, we did find toxic metals in all our chocolate samples. We also found not so desirable metals like Aluminum, Nickel and Cobalt in our chocolate samples. But we also found a lot of essential minerals such as Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper, Iron which were in high quantities in our chocolate samples.

And finally, there was a petition by the American Environmental Safety Institute that they requested the FDA to establish a limit for Lead and Cadmium in cocoa product. They want the limit to be set to 2 µg/kg.

So what’s cooking in our chemical kitchen? We found that many toxic metals are found in many of the gourmet foods we examined. On the other side, we also found a lot of beneficial elements such as the Potassium and the Iron. And it did seem to be like in any other food choice you make in your life, the choices of your food item and the portion you choose to have has an exposure level.

So I want to give a little scenario on the most toxic food we’re serving up here. This is for an average adult, this is not considered to be an average children’s weight. But for an average adult, for a 170 to 180 pound, you can start with a glass of wine and you can get 0.8 µg of Lead. And you have your nice swordfish for dinner, and 4 ounces of that sort of fish, a quarter of a pound, you’re going to have 110.8 µg of Mercury. If you sprinkle a little bit of salt on your vegetables and top of that dish, one of these salts that we use in our gourmet study can have up to half a µg of Mercury and 4 µg of Lead. Then you’re gonna finish with a nice dark chocolate of about 2.5 oz of dark chocolate and you’re gonna end up with 8 µg of Mercury and 6 µg of Lead.

So what’s the grand total? You’re gonna end up with 11 µg of Lead or just about 22 to 25 of your daily allowance, so a quarter of your daily allowance of Lead for your meal and in one dinner. And you’re gonna have 119 µg of Mercury. Because of that swordfish, you are now are over 1400 percent of your daily Mercury limit for the day. And you are 200% over your weekly daily limit of mercury.

Just a little disclaimer, this study was not intended to designate any safety or purity of any product. We only studied the particular elements we mentioned here today. And all the sources and samples we studied were not representative of all the types of samples that are there for fish, chocolate, salt, or other brands. Are we’re not depending this study to advise or warn against any particular brand or particular product. If you would like our references, you should call SPEX and the number is flashed on the screen or you can send us an email at You can also take a look at some of our other studies that we have on our website including our last webinar topic in April which was the “Analysis of Laboratory and Consumer Water Sources for the Presence of BPA and Phthalates”. That is available for download on our website. Are there any questions?

Q: We have a question here, are fish oils safer than eating seafood?

A: Well, we did do at the same time, we did do a study on some fish oil supplements. We found that the fish oil supplements have quite a few of the beneficial elements and not as many of the toxic elements. So, other reports do show that the omega 3 fatty acids are actually in the fish oil as well as the fish. So you can actually take fish oil supplements and get the same benefit.

Q: We have a question, so what can we eat?

A: Well, everybody can eat anything they want. I’m not going to designate any kind of food that somebody should be eating. Just like any nutritionist would tell you, you just need to eat everything in moderation. You should be aware of what is in your food and what quantities they should be found in. So, if you do have a concern about Mercury, you should take that into consideration while making your food choice.

Q: What is methylmercury? And should it be tested as consumed/cooked? Is it an argument against sushi?

A: Well. Methylmercury is a chemical complex of mercury which is often formed in the presence of water, so there are many mercury compounds that are actually as complex as methylmercury. Should the fish be tested and consumed and cooked, for the most part, mercury is not always destroyed in the process of cooking or being consumed in sushi. So, the best answer is that you have to assume that the level of mercury is going to be the same in whether you cook your fish or whether you use it as sushi. So you should just be aware that this is the level of mercury in the fish and make your decisions from there and not cooking or sushi as a way of trying to make a decision of which fish you’re going to eat.

Q: And when can we download this presentation?

A: The presentation is on our website and you can be able to download it anytime you want. Are there any other questions?

We would like to thank everyone for attending and hope that you found this presentation interesting and informative. Everyone in attendance will receive a 10% coupon off any one ICP-MS standard. You will also receive a follow-up email with a link to a short survey where we will request feedback on your experience. Everyone who fills up this brief survey will receive a BPA-Free SPEX CertiPrep stainless steel water bottle. Thank you very much for attending and we hope to see you again on a future webinar.


SPEX CertIPrep analyzed a variety of gourmet foods to discover whether or not they contained hazardous levels of toxic metals. We analyzed Fish, Gourmet Salt, and Chocolate. This webinar was recorded on 6/24/09. Part 5