A consumer health protection organization, As You Sow, filed notices of legal action today against Hershey's, See's Candies and Mars for allegedly violating California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act.
Under the Act, manufacturers are required to protect its consumers and the state's drinking water supply from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and to inform citizens about any exposures to such chemicals.
The consumer health group says the confectioners have failed to warn its consumers of the toxic chemical cadmium in the companies' chocolate products.
Cadmium, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), is "highly toxic and exposure to this metal is known to cause cancer and targets the body's cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, neurological, reproductive, and respiratory systems."
Lead exposure has been a significant public health issue for decades. In a recent release, Sean Palfrey, MD, a pediatrician and professor of Pediatrics and Public Health at Boston University School of Medicine, said no amount of lead ingestion is safe, especially for children and pregnant women.
"Consumers need to know that chocolate may contain heavy metals," Eleanne van Vilet, MPH, As You Sow's Toxic Chemical Research Director, said. "By issuing these notices, we hope to convince chocolate manufacturers to either remove or reduce heavy metals in their products through sound supply chain practices, or provide warnings so consumers can make their own choices about whether to consume the products."
As You Sow has previously initiated legal action against 13 other chocolate manufacturers, including: Godiva, Ghiradelli, Lindt, Green and Black's, Kroger, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Earth Circle Organics, Moonstruck, Theo and Vosges.
According to the health organization's website, extensive testing of 42 chocolate products found that 26 of them, or roughly 62 percent, contained lead and/or cadmium at levels in which just one serving exceeded the California safe harbor level for reproductive harm.
To view the products tested, please visit As You Sow's webpage.