Important notice about Cocoa usage: Does Cocoa contain too much Cadmium?

Published: April 11, 2018 at 9:57 am

Last Updated on

This is an important notice about Cocoa usage and for your urgent consideration if you have started using or drinking cocoa after reading my posts about it. On March 2nd, 2018, I had written an article on the daily health benefits of drinking Cocao. Since it has come to my attention that they may contain excessive amounts of toxic Cadmium, I, therefore, retract said article and recommend against its usage.

I have been drinking cocoa all this time OR I started drinking cocoa after I saw your post, am in trouble?

Relax! NO, you are not in trouble. Please read the following calmly.

The background: When I posted the article on FB group, Asan Ideas for Wealth, Ashish Wani posted a article that reported excessive cadmium levels in cocoa (US brands). So I decided to test the level of Cadmium in the brand that I was using (not naming it as I had only tested one batch)

What is Cadmium? It is an element which can impair kidney function. It is found in cigarette smoke, water and different foods.

How does it get into cocoa? From the soil. This is not an effect of processing (as I initially thought). Just to be clear, it is not just Cadmium that comes from the soil. Many metals both good and bad originate from there.

How was the test performed? The cadmium concentration was determined by a method known as Inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy. This is a powerful technique to detect elemental traces.

What was the result? Only one sample was tested and a concentration equivalent of  21. 73 micrograms of Cadmium per gram of cocoa was detected. That is, 0.00002173 grams of Cadmium was detected in one gram of cocoa.

Is this high? Unfortunately yes. According to the WHO, we should not consume more than 1 microgram per KG of body-weight per day. That is, if we are 70 Kgs of weight, we should not consume more than 70 micrograms of Cadmium per day. This means, not more than 3 grams of cocoa a day.

If you want to fix yourself a cup of hot chocolate, 3 grams is too small an amount! Also, remember that there will be Cadmium from other food and water sources too! So one cannot afford to get that much Cadmium from cocoa alone.

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Is the result conclusive? Is there too much Cadmium in cocoa? NO! Obviously, the result is not conclusive! I just got one sample tested. If I wanted to make a proper study, I must study several batches from the same brand and then multiple brands and then publish the results. So it is not conclusive. Therefore it is not proper to name the brand I had used. IF you name brands in the comment, I shall edit them out. It is not fair to them.

However, that one study has cast a shadow of a doubt. That is not enough to attack any cocoa manufacturer but is enough to personally avoid cocoa. So my skin is no longer in the game. I am going to stop drinking cocoa based on this evidence. I am also no longer recommending it despite its many benefits. I am morally obliged to share the result of the study and hence this post.

Is it about the brand? Cocoa brands are not to blame here. This is something that they have little control over. Cadmium is a natural contaminant and cocoa is a natural plant food. So, this is about cocoa and not about X or Y brand. It has to do with the region from where the cocoa was sourced from. However, considering that there are multiple reports of excessive cadmium in coca from other parts of the world, it is safe to conclude that if Indian coca has excessive cadmium* pretty much all brands will have this issue as it stems from the soil.

* I reiterate that this has not been established in this article. I did this test as a consumer and not as a scientist. Will you wait for conclusive evidence of excessive cadmium or stop drinking when you see the first positive result? The onus is upon the brands to tackle this shadow of doubt and come up with systematic tests.

I have been drinking cocoa all this time OR I started drinking cocoa after I saw your post, am in trouble?

NO! Absolutely not. The first piece of good news is that there is no evidence of Cadmium being carcinogenic when consumed (however inhalation via cigarettes, is).  The second piece of good news is, that you will have to consume about 175 micrograms daily for 50 years to result in kidney damage. Source: WHO

So if you just started last month or have been drinking cocoa only for the last few years, RELAX! Just stop drinking cocoa and you are good.

On the one hand, I feel guilty for having recommended cocoa and awful about having to write this retraction. On the other hand, it is only because I wrote that post and shared it on Asan Ideas for Wealth, did I come to know about the possibility of excessive Cadmium. It cuts both ways.

I thank Ashish Wani for pointed out the consumerlabs study and apologise for any inconvenience caused. It is easy to personally stop eating cocoa. What else can be done? The Food Safety and Standard Authority of India does not have a proper contact form! I will convey my findings to them via telephone (if possible) and via their Twitter channel. If you have any other productive/constructive suggestion, please let me know.

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Pattabiraman editor freefincalM. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. since Aug 2006. Connect with him via Twitter or Linkedin Pattabiraman has co-authored two print-books, You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) and Gamechanger and seven other free e-books on various topics of money management. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India” an organisation to promote unbiased, commission-free investment advice.
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  1. Thanks Pattu Sir, for updating about the Cadmium level in cocoa powder. This is only because of you. that you read and do in depth study that we came to know about such things. we just dont know what we eat in vegetables and all as the sources of high cadmium is from soil. Irony is that i read this article while sipping in my hot cocoa powder milk (W/o Sugar). Atleast i will complete one jar which im drinking from past 1 month. Looking for any further update. Thanks again

  2. As much as I respect you as a teacher and an Intelligent man who is nothing but sharing his knowledge to make our financial lives better, these Health articles are serious Professor, these are not mere Financial ones.

    I know you have got a Health issue, so you would naturally do your due diligence even about Health articles, but I am afraid that is not enough Professor, even if something is absolutely good each body could react differently. If that is the case with absolute good ones, what would happen if you yourself are not knowledgeable enough?.

    So, I urge you to write/recommend articles which are you 100% certain of and have no doubts about, for one simple reason that a lot of people believe what you write and practice. I myself have stopped taking Sugar in Milk and Coffee after reading your article.

    Apologies for being blunt, I have got nothing but Admiration and Respect for you.

    1. When I recommended Cocoa, I knew nothing about this Cadmium business. It is a natural plant-based food that has been eaten for centuries and it grows naturally in India. When the facts change, we change our stance. That is all that I or anyone can do. As for not eating sugar, it is easy enough to dig up evidence in support of that.

  3. thank you for your clarification. just today i ordered cocoa on Amazon and cancelled after reading your blog post. it is really difficult to decide what to eat ,and what not! some days back i started to eat almonds as snack, then i read somewhere on net that california almonds contain carcinogenic elements due to some process they are passing through as per US Laws and i stopped, as most almonds available in india are from california as per my impression.

  4. your are no longer only a financial monk for us .

    As a matter of fact , you are saint , monk, guide for us in all aspect of life . .

    How many of us , have the guts /morality to admit our fault and weakness and confessing them in public .

    Big Salute to you Sir !

    My respect for you ,has grown manifold after this post !!

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