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An example of bad journalism about chocolate

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

IANAL - I Am Not A Lawyer - is a well-known Internet acronym. We need a new one : IANAS - I Am Not A Scientist

There are a number of doom-and-gloom rumors going around the internet about chocolate. One tries to scare people into believing that all chocolate is going to be GMO more or less immediately. That's not going to happen - and I will explain why in another post.

Following is a link to an example of just plain bad reporting that gets reposted a lot by people with zero knowledge of the subject. It points to one of the dangers of the Internet, that bad/wrong information can, if it is repeated often enough, become a truth and it can be difficult to get people to change their minds:

One issue I have with the source article is that it has no publication date. I posted a story linking to the source article back in February, 2015 on archive.TheChocolateLife.com. So, the articles taken together are misleading (or disingenuous at best) in that "recent" in this case is more than two years ago. So, there is no way to know if any of the brands have worked to address any of the issues raised. In fact, there may no longer be a problem.

Also - take a look at the FAQ. They are so vague and equivocal as to be useless guidance for anyone truly interested in knowing what's going on.

Plus, there are no hard facts in the main article.

What are the standards being referred to? What are the allowable limits and what does this mean in terms of daily intake? No links are provided. This is suspicious.

What were the levels found in the products? There's a lot if difference between being .1 part per billion over the limit and being 10 ppb over the limit. There is also no attempt to correlate those figures with the recommended serving size. This is suspicious.

Finally, there is no attempt to provide context. Chocolate is not the only common food with possible heavy metal contamination. How does chocolate compare with other foods "known to the State of California" to contain harmful chemicals ... and not just heavy metals but agrochemicals? This is suspicious.

IMO, this is a case where reposters are not scientists, don't know what's being written about (and probably don't care), and are being needlessly alarmist by sharing something they have not paid critical attention to. I would classify the original article as a scare article written for fundraising or other reasons, not responsible science or journalism.

The article has been removed. I guess a case of bad fact-reporting learned its lesson. However, those bad-reporting and not correcting anyway are even more dangerous.

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@foodensity - I took a look around the site and it has in fact been removed, not just renamed. I searched for ' cadmium ' and ' chocolate ' to see if it had been renamed, and apparently not.

So apparently there is some good to be done by shining light on these poorly sourced articles.

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Given that I eat my share of cocoa powder — which probably has the highest amount of cadmium per gram — this concerned me big time. I did a search on PubMed.gov, which is a go-to for finding scientific publications, and looked for any studies that investigated cadmium poisoning from food. Zilch. Nada. Just one study where people in Japan lived by a cadmium waste dump from industry. I asked a well-respected toxicologist I know if she knew of any cases. She looked at me like I had two heads and said, “Not from food.” Cadmium is in other foods, like pasta, eaten in larger quantities and by more people, yet no one is concerned AND THERE

...continued... THERE IS NO REASON TO BE CONCERNED. The post was removed for good reason. If someone is going to spout their ideology, so be it but state that up front so as not to foster the impression that the post is fact-based. Cadmium may be a “hazard” in a technical sense, but not one that poses any real risk at all. Personally I’d trust a toxicologist over the person who wrote that nonsense. Now let’s pass around some Pralus and exhale.

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