A New York man sued Hershey on Wednesday in federal court, accusing the international candy company of failing to disclose that some dark chocolate products contain excessive levels of lead and cadmium.
In a class-action complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in New York’s eastern district, Christopher Lazazzaro alleged The Hershey Company engaged in deceptive business practices after new testing showed high levels of lead in three of its products.
Those products were Hershey’s Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate, Lily’s Extra Dark Chocolate (70 percent cocoa) and Lily’s Extreme Dark Chocolate (85 percent cocoa), which also contained high levels of cadmium.
Lazazzaro wrote that Hershey’s “advertising and marketing campaign for the products is false, deceptive, and misleading” for failing to disclose the amounts of lead and cadmium.
“Consumers rely on [Hershey] to be truthful regarding the ingredients,” the lawsuit reads, adding that, “people are concerned with what is in the food that they are putting into their bodies, as well as parents and caregivers being concerned with what they are feeding to the children in their care.”
The lawsuit alleges Hershey violated New York laws against deceptive business practices and breached merchant warranty laws in dozens of states by distributing products with high levels of lead and cadmium.
The Hill has reached out to Hershey for comment.
Lead is a toxic metal that can be extremely harmful to humans when consumed at any amount, potentially causing damage to the kidneys, brain and other parts of the body.
While cocoa bean shells are one source of lead, most contamination occurs during the shipping or processing of the beans and in manufacturing.
Cadmium, a natural element found in the earth’s crust, has been used to make batteries and other products. People are generally exposed to the cancer-causing agent by breathing tobacco smoke or eating cadmium-contaminated foods.
In the filing, Lazazzaro cited a new report made public this month by Consumer Reports magazine, a nonprofit organization and publisher that conducts independent testing on products.
While the report focused on other brands as well, it found those three Hershey products contained more than 100 percent of a maximum dose level for lead as allowed in California.
Hershey’s Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate contained 265 percent of the threshold for lead, while Lily’s Extra Dark Chocolate contained 144 percent of the maximum allowable level for lead.
And Lily’s Extreme Dark Chocolate contained 143 percent of the maximum level for lead and was also 101 percent above the level for cadmium, another metal that can be dangerous for humans.