Trader Joe's Is Still Selling Dark Chocolates That Tested High In Lead
Trader Joe's takes a lot of pride in its many specialty products. "To earn a spot on our shelves, each product is submitted to a rigorous tasting panel process, in which every aspect of quality is investigated," the company says on its website.
But a different kind of evaluation process recently challenged the quality of two of the retailer's popular products.
An investigation by Consumer Reports last month discovered high levels of potentially harmful heavy metals—lead and cadmium—in 23 popular dark chocolate bars, including two sold by Trader Joe's.
According to the report, Trader Joe's The Dark Chocolate Lover's Chocolate Bar 85% Cacao tested high in both heavy metals, while Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao tested high in lead. "Consistent, long-term exposure to even small amounts of heavy metals can lead to a variety of health problems," the report noted, adding that "eating just an ounce a day" is risky.
Trader Joe's is now facing two separate federal class-action lawsuits as a result of the investigation: Ferrante v. Trader Joe's Company and Herd v. Trader Joe's Company. Both suits accuse the retailer of endangering customers by failing to disclose the presence of heavy metals on the products' labels.
Given the serious nature of the report's findings and the legal action that followed, I was surprised to find both dark chocolate bars still openly available for purchase at my local Trader Joe's in Brooklyn, N.Y.
There were multiple stacks of the Dark Chocolate Lover's Chocolate Bars, priced at $1.99 each, under a sign reading: "Perfect in homemade brownies!" Three-packs of the 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate Bars were similarly displayed nearby along the same shelf.
When I looked online, I could find no mention of either product on the company's website, as if both items had been scrubbed from the inventory. Yet, in the store, they were readily available to anyone looking for a sweet treat. I visited the same location twice, in fact, on Jan. 12 and Jan. 20, and found both varieties both times.
Leaving these items on the shelves seems to contradict the company's own food-safety policy, which states that "[w]hile there are aspects of our product supply-chain beyond our direct control, we will never leave to chance the safety of the products we offer. We err on the side of caution and are proactive in addressing issues. We take action quickly, aggressively investigating potential problems and removing product from sale if there is any doubt about its safety or quality."
Trader Joe's did not respond to requests for comment.
The chain is not alone in its apparent disregard for the highly publicized report on heavy metals. I also found several other dark chocolate bars cited in the report at nearby retailers.
At my local Target, I spotted the Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa, which tested high in cadmium, and the Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa, which tested high in lead, according to the report; each priced at $3.49.
Meanwhile, at my local Whole Foods, I noticed shelf tags for two varieties—Tony's Chocolonely Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao, which tested high in lead, and Beyond Good Organic Pure Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa, which tested high in cadmium, according to the report—but neither product on the actual shelf, suggesting they were either removed or simply sold out.
However, six others flagged by Consumer Reports were prominently displayed, including two Lily's brand bars—Extremely Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa, which tested high in both heavy metals, and Extra Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa, which tested high in lead, according to the report—each on sale for $3.49.