Hershey’s Faces a Lawsuit Over Heavy Metals in Its Dark Chocolate Bars

Christopher Lazazzaro has filed a proposed class action against The Hershey Co. for allegedly not disclosing the presence of lead and cadmium in some of its dark chocolate bars.

This comes two weeks after Consumer Reports tested various dark chocolate bars, including those from Hershey’s.

The report found that three Hershey’s bars exceeded California’s maximum allowable dose levels (MADL) for lead or cadmium. The bars in question are Hershey’s Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate, Lily’s Extra Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa, and Lily’s Extreme Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa.

In June 2021, Hershey’s acquired Lily’s, a company known for its non-GMO and gluten-free chocolate, for $425 million.

However, a recent lawsuit seeking $5 million from Hershey’s claims its labeling and marketing campaign for dark chocolate bars was “false, deceptive, and misleading.”

“Consumers reasonably rely on the marketing and information on Defendant’s labels in making purchasing decisions,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers said in the court filing. “By marketing the Products as containing only dark chocolate ingredients, and not disclosing the presence of cadmium and lead, Defendant misleads reasonable consumers.”

The suit alleges that the plaintiffs would not have purchased the chocolate bars had Hershey’s disclosed the levels of lead and cadmium present in them.

Hershey’s has yet to comment on the matter, but Christopher Gindlesperger, a spokesperson for the National Confectioners Association, referred to their Dec. 16 statement which said the products tested were in compliance with safety requirements and the levels of lead and cadmium were well under the settlement limits determined by As You Sow.

In 2018, the association reached a settlement with As You Sow, an organization advocating enforcement of California’s Proposition 65, which places limits on certain chemicals. The settlement established concentration levels for both lead and cadmium that require warning labels if exceeded.

The association has confirmed that its manufacturers, including Hershey’s, have abided by the levels stipulated in the settlement. However, the association declined to comment when asked about the settlement and the lawsuit, which triggered warnings labels.

Exposure to significant levels of cadmium can lead to lung cancer and reproductive harm, while significant exposure to lead can impede growth and development in children.

“High levels of lead and cadmium in food products is material to reasonable consumers, because these chemicals pose serious health risk, even in small dosages,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers said.