MisLead Delivers a Chocolate Surprise

Ideas and Issues

misleadNew Orleans   It probably goes without saying that we’re a long way from Hollywood, but recently we got to watch a sneak preview of a rough cut of a documentary called MisLead, The Secret Epidemic being produced by the nonprofit Lead Safe America Foundation and its director, and filmmaker, Tamara Rubin, from Portland, Oregon.  As one of those interviewed commented, this is a problem that too many think is essentially “been there, done that,” and long resolved, but certainly community organizers, long veterans of campaigns to try to hold paint companies accountable even decades after lead as an ingredient was stripped from house and other paint, recognize fully that the health impacts of lead poisoning continue to be ever present dangers.  The documentary does a solid job of joining the chorus reminding people of the continued danger.

            Interestingly, MisLead delivers a chocolate surprise which induces something of a stutter step for folks on their way to grab a box of such goodies with Valentine’s Day on the horizon, and that concern was perhaps old hat to many, but an interesting piece of news to me.  Digging deeper I found no shortage of sources trying to sound the warning sirens. 

            Wikipedia lists lead content as a potential chocolate health danger, though it’s not because lead concentration in cocoa beans is part of nature.  In fact they cited a Nigeria study finding that the lead content in the beans has among the “lowest reported values for a natural food.”  Unfortunately the manufacturing, transportation, and distribution system for chocolate is fraught with danger.  Tragically, lead is still an additive in gasoline in Nigeria putting that country hard in the atmospheric emissions contamination that inflicts so many urban neighborhoods in the United States to this date.  ACORN International certainly found as well during an accountability campaign with Sherwin-Williams several years ago that lead was still in paint in Peru and Argentina.

            The EPA and the Department of Agriculture caution parents to particularly keep bittersweet dark chocolate away from children, especially those under 6-years old, for whom lead poisoning is particularly dangerous and damaging.  The FDA found that only about 1% of children under 6 eat such chocolate, but still it is pretty poison.  In a 2006 guidance the FDA lowered the level considered to be dangerous in candy to .1 part per million for children. In fact the American Environmental Safety Institute (AESI) in Los Angeles has also sued Mars, Kraft Foods, Hershey, Nestle, See’s Candies, and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory to try and force the firms to include warning labels for what they believe are unsafe levels of lead and cadmium in chocolate products.

                  Watching MisLead, it seems that with so many sugar choices out there, why take the chance?