The 6 Safest Dark Chocolate Brands


Dark chocolate has long been touted as a healthier alternative to traditional chocolate, but a recent study suggested there is something sinister lurking within many of these popular sweets.

A recent Consumer Reports investigation found significantly high levels of dangerous heavy metals lead and cadmium in over 20 popular kinds of dark chocolate bars. Both Hershey and Trader Joe’s are now facing civil lawsuits over the study’s findings.

But not every brand tested by the consumer watchdog fared so poorly. In fact, five kinds of dark chocolate bars were shown to contain relatively low amounts of both toxic metals, based on California’s maximum allowable dose level, which Consumer Reports described as the “most protective” standard in the country. (There is no current federal standard for lead and cadmium in foods, the report noted.)

These five bars were all deemed “safer choices,” according to the study.

1. Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate

Ingredients: Unsweetened Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Sugar, Milk Fat, Vanilla Extract, Natural Flavor, Soy Lecithin.

One of America’s oldest chocolate makers, California-based Ghirardelli is also one of the most ubiquitous brands, commonly found in supermarkets and drug stores nationwide. Its Intense Dark 86% Cacao bar ranked third lowest in lead, according to the study, and also boasted the lowest cadmium level in the whole “safer choices” category. Look for it pretty much anywhere that chocolates are sold.

2. Pascha Organic Dark Chocolate

Pascha Organic Dark Chocolate
Pascha Organic Dark Chocolate

Ingredients: Organic Chocolate Liquor*, Organic Cane Sugar, and Organic Cocoa Butter* (Vegan). Our 85% Cacao Organic Dark Chocolate Bar is free from peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, wheat, soy, dairy, sesame, refined sugar, palm oil, and emulsifiers.

Made from certified organic Peruvian cocoa beans, cane sugar and vanilla (yup, that’s it), this bar by Pascha is well-balanced without a trace of bitterness — and it’s low in sugar. Made in a dedicated allergen-free facility, it is vegan and free from peanuts, nuts, dairy, soy, eggs, wheat and gluten.

The company promotes that the cocoa in their products is grown by farmers certified by the UTZ, which recently merged with the Rainforest Alliance and is the largest certification program for coffee and cocoa in the world.

3. Mast Organic Dark Chocolate

Mast Organic Dark Chocolate
Mast Organic Dark Chocolate

Ingredients: Organic cocoa beans, organic cane sugar, organic vanilla bean.

Once revered as pioneers in the artisanal chocolate movement, New York-based Mast Brothers faced controversy in 2015 over claims that their confections did not always live up to their professed “bean-to-bar” standards. However, in the Consumer Reports study, their chocolate fared better than any other brand, registering the lowest lead level of all the bars tested. Its cadmium content was also under half the maximum allowable level. Made with just three listed ingredients—cocoa beans, cane sugar and vanilla beans—Mast’s simple 80% Cacao bar is available from Whole Foods, Wegmans, and other retailers.

4. Taza Organic Deliciously Dark Chocolate

Taza Organic Deliciously Dark Chocolate

Ingredients: Organic cacao beans, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter. May contain traces of tree nuts and sesame seeds.

A mom-and-pops-founded shop from Massachusetts, Taza claims to be the first American chocolate maker to set up a third-party certified Direct Trade-sourcing program. Those high standards seem to have paid off when it comes to product safety as well. Taza’s stone-ground Deliciously Dark variety contained the second lowest amount of lead in the entire Consumer Reports study. The level of cadmium also fell within the safer range. Described as a “bold balance of sweet and bitter” on the company’s website, the cocoa bean- and cocoa butter-blended bar can be found at Whole Foods, The Fresh Market and other specialty stores.

5. Valrhona Abinao Dark Chocolate

Ingredients: Cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier: sunflower lecithin, natural vanilla extract. MILK (Made in a facility that uses milk). This product may contain traces of nuts, soy.

A century-old French brand, Valrhona upholds its stated mission of excellence by making the safer category as well. Still, its self-described “powerful & tannic” dark chocolate bar, made of 85% Cacao, had the highest levels of lead among all the “safer choices” in the study, though it fared better than several others on the cadmium scale. Look for it at specialty chocolate shops and upscale supermarkets.

6. Chocolove Organic Dark Chocolate

Chocolove Organic Dark Chocolate

Ingredients: Dark Chocolate (Cocoa Liquor**, Sugar, Cocoa Butter**, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla), Almonds, Sea Salt. Allergens: Contains almonds, soy. May contain traces of milk, wheat, eggs, peanuts or other nuts.

While milk chocolate is undeniably delicious, dark chocolate tends to have more nutritional perks.

“Dark chocolate is rich in a group of antioxidants called flavonoids,” says Mackenzie Burgess, RDN. “Research shows that epicatechin, a specific flavanol found in cacao and dark chocolate, is particularly beneficial for supporting heart health.”

“This chocolate bar has a nice, rich texture to it, which will delight your tastebuds,” Burgess says. “The company also offers sugar-free organic chocolate, and I like that they have miniature-sized bars for smaller portions and on-the-go snacks.”

Chocolove supports the International Federation of Red Cross program in West Africa, an organization in the fight against the Ebola virus. The company supports ethical manufacturing processes, is committed to fair trade and is a member of the World Cocoa Foundation.

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