Two Trader Joe’s shoppers are suing the grocery store chain in New York federal court for allegedly misleading consumers by selling dark chocolate that contains unsafe levels of lead and cadmium.
Both proposed class action lawsuits cite a December Consumer Reports analysis, which found that multiple dark chocolate bars from Trader Joe’s contained levels of lead and cadmium that surpassed California's maximum allowable dose level (MADL). California’s regulations are among the strictest in the country, surpassing the Food and Drug Administration’s MADL.
Thomas Ferrante, one of two plaintiffs suing the retailer, argues that Trader Joe’s failed to notify consumers of the heavy metals.
"Had defendants disclosed that the products contained lead and cadmium, plaintiff would not have been willing to pay the same amount for the products and/or would not have been willing to purchase the products," Ferrante said in his suit, according to Law360.
Our scientists measured the amount of heavy metals in 28 dark chocolate bars. Measurable amounts of cadmium and lead were detected in all of them.— Consumer Reports Advocacy (@CRAdvocacy) January 4, 2023
Learn more here: https://t.co/b80kUoYsSY pic.twitter.com/GR9d1x0lRF
Reuters reports that the four law firms involved in Ferrante’s proposed class action filed a similar lawsuit against Hershey Co, another chocolate producer whose product surpassed California’s MADL in the Consumer Reports analysis.
Both cadmium and lead are harmful heavy metals that can lead to serious health issues, including cancer, kidney disease, fragile bones, brain damage, and anemia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lead is particularly toxic for unborn children and developing babies, as only a small dose can damage a child’s nervous system.
That said, Johns Hopkins Medicine toxicologist Andrew Stolbach explained that MADLs are intentionally “very conservative.”
"The safety levels for lead and cadmium are set to be very protective, and going above them by a modest amount isn't something to be concerned about," Stolbach told NPR in December. "If you make sure that the rest of your diet is good and sufficient in calcium and iron, you protect yourself even more by preventing absorption of some lead and cadmium in your diet."
Responses to the lawsuit were mixed on social media. While some shoppers on r/TraderJoe’s criticized the retailer for its “lack of transparency,” others were equally critical of Consumer Reports’ “flimsy” data. (Consumer Reports explains its methodology here.)
Cheapism reached out to Trader Joe's and will update this article if and when we hear back.