Are Your favourite Chocolates Safe to Eat?

counterfeiting chocolates

The chocolate industry is expanding better than ever and the number of chocolatiers is just booming day-by-day. Well, who’s complaining!

Chocolates are one of the favourite sweet of all times. Be if gifting on special occasions, be it uplifting of mood, anytime munch-in snack, chocolates have always been a saviour.

The number of home-made chocolate makers has also increased manifold and the love for these tiny magical delights knows no heights. But we have a bad news for all the chocolate lovers!

These miniatures and bars, both home-made and factory made are prone to adulteration.

According to studies, many chocolates were found to be contaminated with heavy metals! Since cocoa powder is the key ingredient for making chocolates, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has fixed the upper permissible levels for two heavy metals. These are lead and copper.

As per the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins, and Residues) Regulations, 2011, the maximum permissible levels of these heavy metals in cocoa powder are:

Lead: 5.0 ppm by weight, on the dry fat-free substance
Copper: 70 ppm by weight on the fat-free substance

A recent study in California, USA proved that a major percentage of chocolates contained lead and/or cadmium above permissible levels as stipulated in California’s so-called “Proposition 65 law”.

You will be surprised to know that the most contaminated chocolates were that of most popular brands.

Health Hazards:

1. Lead exposure can cause damage to the central nervous system (CNS), leading to learning difficulties and lower IQ in infants and young children and can be fatal to pregnant women

2. Cadmium exposure is extremely harmful to pregnant women and children

3. Cadmium is carcinogenic and can cause damage to the kidneys, bone, and liver

4. Copper exposure can cause weakness, hypothyroidism, depression, constipation and low blood pressure etc.

In a 2005 study by the University of California, Santa Cruz found that the average lead concentration of cocoa beans was

Contrary to this, lead concentrations of manufactured cocoa and chocolate products were as high as 230 and 70 ng/g, respectively, which was among the highest reported for all foods. Therefore, it is during transportation and processing of the cocoa beans during chocolate manufacture that the major contamination occurs, and not from the soil, as is commonly assumed (Rankin et al., 2005).

Enteric bacteria such as Salmonella and coliforms such as Escherichia coli have been found to be a significant source of contamination of chocolate.

During storage and transportation of raw materials like cocoa powder, contamination with insect and rodent filth can be a major problem. If these are transferred during the chocolate making process, they can pose serious health hazards. Therefore, it is important to maintain quality control during the entire manufacturing process.

It has also been seen that in order to make extra money, some unscrupulous businessmen intentionally carry out adulteration of chocolates to increase their profit margin.

Some of the ways that adulteration of chocolates can be carried out intentionally are:

1. Inferior quality of sugar is used for manufacturing chocolates

2. Minerals are added to increase the weight of the chocolates

3. Starch is added during manufacture of chocolates

4. Non-permitted artificial colouring is used

It is extremely sad and disappointing to see chocolates getting adulterated whose major consumers are small children. It is very important that stringent quality checks are put in place along the entire chain in the manufacturing process of chocolates. There is nothing more important than the health and well-being of young children whose lives are at risk by eating these adulterated chocolates.

Let everybody’s favourite snack be safe to eat!