A customer has filed a class-action lawsuit against candy maker Hershey after a report claimed that its dark chocolate contained dangerous heavy metals.
Christoper Lazazzaro said in the lawsuit, first reported by Reuters, that the metals posed a “serious health risk” and sought damages of at least $5 million.
Lazazzaro accused Hershey of “deceptive and misleading” marketing of its Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate, Lily’s Extra Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa, and Lily’s Extremely Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa by not stating on the packaging that they contained lead and cadmium.
Consumer advocacy nonprofit Consumer Reports sent 28 dark chocolate bars from brands including Hershey’s, Lily’s, Trader Joe’s, and Lindt for testing. The results, published earlier this month, found that for 23 of the bars, eating an ounce a day meant an adult could consume more lead and cadmium than public-health authorities generally considered safe.
“Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems,” the Mayo Clinic says, noting that it builds up over time and can cause high blood pressure, joint and muscle pain, headaches, and memory problems. It is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and children, according to the Mayo.
The CDC says that exposure to low levels of cadmium can cause the metal to build up in the body over time and may cause kidney disease, fragile bones, and even cancer.
Consumer Reports’ testing found that one ounce of Hershey’s Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate contained 265% of the level of lead and 30% of the level of cadmium that California classed as the maximum allowable dose.
For Lily’s Extra Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa, one ounce contained 144% of the lead level and 42% of the cadmium level, while for Lily’s Extremely Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa this was 143% for lead and 101% for cadmium.
There aren’t any federal limits on how much lead and cadmium most foods can contain, Consumer Reports said.
Consumer Reports found that cacao plants take up cadmium from the soil, while lead seems to contaminate the beans as they dry in the sun after being picked.
Lazazzaro said in the lawsuit that Hershey “knew and could not be unaware of the existence of lead and cadmium” in the products because it sources the ingredients, manufactures the products, and carried out quality-control testing. He said the class-action group likely contains “thousands” of members who were damaged by the company’s “deceptive and misleading practices.”
Lazazzaro’s attorneys did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on why he decided to file a lawsuit against Hershey specifically.
Hershey did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on the lawsuit.