While the topic of pesticide use in cocoa plant management may be upsetting because of the popularity of chocolate, it is definitely a worthy subject – especially if consumers are unaware they are ingesting trace amounts of chemicals while consuming chocolate.
The U.S. EPA says lindane, which has been used as a pesticide for decades, has shown to cause a variety of toxic effects in animal subjects, “…such as reproductive and neurotoxic impairments.”
Lotion and shampoo that treat lice have also been shown to contain lindane. According to the FDA, “patients are at risk for serious neurologic adverse events, and even death, particularly with early retreatment. It is not known how soon after administering one dose of Lindane that a second dose can be safely administered.” They also say it should be used with extreme caution in children, and individuals who weigh less than 110 pounds.
The information about lindane in chocolate is not meant to be deliberately alarming. The amount of lindane found in the chocolate samples were far smaller than what is used in a shampoo or lotion. One study that finds lindane in a sample of chocolate does not mean all chocolate contains lindane or any other pesticides. However, consumers should be more aware about what food they are consuming and when it is a good idea to choose organic.
In the book, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Organic Living,” the pesticides paraquat and methyl bromide are also referenced as potentially being in chocolate. (Source: Page 62)
The Pesticide Action Network in the UK says paraquat is used in cocoa production and is toxic to animals. An Oregon State pesticide profile says it is highly toxic. Methyl bromide exposure can lead to respiratory, kidney and neurological harm. It can also lead to pain, weakness and seizures. Many countries are phasing out the use of methyl bromide because it also damages the ozone layer.
The World Watch Institute says the most cocoa is grown in West African countries, and that lindane is the most commonly used pesticide there. One way to limit potential exposure to lindane from chocolate is to only buy organic products. If a chocolate product is marked organic, it should be pesticide and insecticide-free.
Image Credit: Simon Eugster