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Cadmium in Cocoa

Foto van verschillende cacao producten

Single products cocoa

Cadmium in Cocoa: Balancing Nutritional Value and Safety

Cocoa is grown almost everywhere in the world on volcanic soils, such as in South America. The cocoa palm benefits from rich supplies of essential nutrients such as iron, calcium, magnesium, and sodium in these soils, contributing to the growth and quality of the cocoa beans. However, these fertile soils also contain cadmium, a heavy metal that enters the beans through the roots of the cocoa trees.

Guidelines and Regulations for Cadmium in Cocoa Products

To protect consumer health, regulatory bodies such as the European Union have set strict standards for the amount of cadmium in cocoa products. Prolonged exposure to cadmium can cause damage to kidneys and bones.

This has led to a shift in the import of cocoa powder from regions with higher cadmium levels to areas with lower levels. Therefore, we are importing less cocoa powder from Peru and more from countries like Ghana and Ivory Coast, where the cadmium levels in the volcanic soil are lower than in South America.

For a single-product cocoa, the cadmium value must not exceed 0.6mg/kg when purchased. Average cadmium values in cocoa beans fluctuate between 0.3 and 0.7mg/kg. Let's look at what single products can be made from cocoa based on the production process:

The Production Process of Cocoa and the Risks of Cadmium

The process from cocoa bean to cocoa powder involves several steps:

  1. Harvesting
  2. Fermenting
  3. Drying
  4. Roasting
  5. Breaking (Cocoa Nibs) (Cadmium level same as in bean)
  6. Grinding (Cocoa Paste) (Cadmium level same as in bean)
  7. Pressing (Cocoa Butter) (Cadmium level much lower than in bean)
  8. Pulverizing (Cocoa Powder) (Cadmium level much higher than in bean)
  9. Packaging

If the amount of cadmium measured in the cocoa bean stays below 0.6mg/kg, Cocoa Nibs and Cocoa Paste can be sold without problems because they have the same cadmium levels as the bean itself.

There are no restrictions for Cocoa Butter. Cocoa Butter contains almost no cadmium. This is because Cocoa Butter is a fat, and cadmium does not like fat. Almost all the cadmium therefore remains in the press cake during pressing


Challenges with Cocoapowder

Unfortunately, Cocoa Powder is just the victim of this. After removing the cocoa butter, the volume of the remaining press cake has become much smaller, but the amount of cadmium is still almost the same. Therefore, there is suddenly much more Cadmium per kg in the press cake. The levels regularly exceed 0.6mg/kg, especially in cocoa from South America.

Therefore, producers ensure a mix of different press cakes, to ensure that the cocoa powder stays below 0.6mg/kg.

Fun Fact about Criollo Cacao

Due to the tightened rules on cadmium in cocoa, you see little to no criollo cocoa on the market anymore. This is because Criollo cocoa only comes from South America. Also, RAW Cocoa Powder is effectively no longer available, due to these new rules.



Cocoa Butter is usually safe because it contains almost no cadmium. However, the cadmium content in cocoa powder is often too high. Therefore, manufacturers are now mixing cocoa powder from different places to ensure that it is safe to sell in Europe. This also means that certain types of cocoa, like criollo, are difficult to find. It is good that consumers know this, so they can enjoy chocolate with confidence, protected by strict rules.