Health for humans, animals & plants

Contaminants in cocoa

Final Report of Priority Action A-002-17

The aim of the focus action "Contaminants in cocoa" was to obtain an overview of the content of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), mycotoxins and cadmium in cocoa products in Austria. Thirty-two samples from all over Austria were examined. Eight samples were objected to:

  • Mainly the samples were objected to because of inadequate labeling.
  • In two samples the maximum levels for PAHs were exceeded
  • One sample exceeded the future maximum content for cadmium (valid from 1.1.2019)
  • One sample contained an unapproved novel food as an ingredient

PAHs are carcinogenic substances that result from incomplete combustion processes or pyrolysis of organic materials (wood, coal, gasoline, oil, tobacco, waste) or food (grilling, frying, smoking, drying). PAHs are solid, mostly colorless, chemically stable but photosensitive compounds. They are lipophilic (fat-soluble), and are sparingly soluble in water. They are also formed during the roasting of cocoa beans. Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal that is widely distributed in the environment due to rock erosion and volcanism as well as emissions from industry. Crops can absorb cadmium from the soil to varying degrees: the cocoa fruit is considered a collector of cadmium. Mycotoxins are fungal toxins. They are natural, so-called secondary metabolites of molds that have a toxic effect on humans and animals. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that up to 25 percent of the world's food production is contaminated with mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are largely heat-stable and are not usually destroyed during food processing.

Last updated: 18.07.2022

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