A San Francisco Superior Court judge has approved a settlement resolving claims that have lingered for more than three years about whether certain levels of lead and cadmium in chocolate require warnings under California’s “Proposition 65.” The settlement was negotiated by the non-profit consumer group As You Sow and leaders of the chocolate industry over the past year.
The settlement requires a joint study to investigate and report on the main sources of lead and cadmium in chocolate products. The experts who conduct the study will also make findings and recommendations on feasible measures that may be taken, if any, to meaningfully reduce levels of lead and cadmium found in chocolate products. The experts’ findings will be published in a public report and are expected to further the dialogue between As You Sow and the chocolate companies. The settlement agreement also sets thresholds for determining when Proposition 65 warnings will be required for chocolate products based on their percentage of cacao content and their levels of lead and cadmium.
“This settlement will help avoid consumer and retailer confusion while establishing a clear set of guidelines for chocolate and cocoa companies to follow when selling their products in California. It demonstrates that the participating companies are dedicated to being transparent and socially responsible,” said Jerry Hagedorn, the chairman of the National Confectioners Association’s Chocolate Council.
“Our goal has always been to work with chocolate manufacturers to find ways to avoid or reduce lead and cadmium in their products,” Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow, said. “This settlement helps achieve that goal and provides for interim warning levels as we jointly work on the study.”
In addition to As You Sow, the following chocolate confectioners have joined in the the settlement: Barry Callebaut (USA), Blommer Chocolate Co., Cargill, Inc., Guittard Chocolate Co., The Hershey Company, Lindt & Sprungli (North America), Mars Incorporated, Mondelez Global LLC, and Nestle USA, Inc.
The Superior Court also authorized an “opt-in” program that will enable additional companies that make or offer chocolate products for sale in California to become additional parties to the settlement if they are willing to comply with the terms of the settlement.
“Working together, all of the parties involved are putting consumers first. We at the chocolate and cocoa companies take food safety and product quality very seriously and look forward to working with scientific experts on this issue,” said Hagedorn.
This lawsuit was not the first to target chocolate products, for containing high levels of lead and cadmium. A 2002 Proposition 65 enforcement action brought by the defunct American Environmental Safety Institute was settled shortly before the matter was set to go to trial. As You Sow’s case also settled shortly before its trial date of April 9, 2018.
The Case Cited by this article is: As You Sow v. Trader Joe’s Company (SFSC Case No.CGC-15-548791).