This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 25, 2006 10:45 PM. The previous post in this blog was Hail to the chief. The next post in this blog is Quotation of the Month. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Dagoba Chocolate recall: lead test results

A while back I discovered that one of my favorite sweet snacks, Dagoba Organic Chocolate Eclipse 87% bars, had been recalled for unsafe lead content. The company was stonewalling completely on the results of the tests it had performed on this product, and I had a half-eaten bar of it, still in the wrapper, sitting on top of my refrigerator. And so I took it in to a food testing lab here in Northeast Portland to have it checked out.

The results came back today, and they are truly alarming. The bar I had contained 4.5 milligrams of lead per kilogram. That's 4.5 parts per million. That's nine times the regulatory action limit on lead currently imposed by the federal Food and Drug Adminstration for candy likely to be consumed by children (0.5 ppm), and 45 times the most recent proposed standard for such candy (0.1 ppm).

No wonder Dagoba's not showing whatever test results it has. And you have to wonder how these products legally got to market when they're that badly contaminated.

If you ate Dagoba Chocolate Eclipse bars over the last six months, you really do need to have a blood test for lead. If you need additional anecdotal evidence, read this.

Then there's the question of whether Dagoba is going to pay for your blood test (and whatever else may ensue from the results). I called the company on April 5 and asked that question of a person named Jessica. She told me to call Jeff Wilson, Dagoba's liability insurance representative at an outfit called Ashland Insurance. I did so on April 10. On that date Mr. Wilson took my name, address and phone number and promised that someone from Dagoba would call me back with an answer.

I'm still waiting.

An interesting side story to the lead contamination is the hate mail I have received for speaking up on this issue. One outraged organic foodie even foolishly thought he could get somewhere by complaining to my employer, who has nothing to do with this blog or this issue, about my comments.

It's truly bizarre. I was sold contaminated food, and I'm in the wrong to say anything about it because it was a small, lefty Oregon company? I call major b.s. on that.

Comments (19)

Personally, I admire the blogging you have done about this situation. Having eaten Dagoba Chocolate at a friend's recently, it brought this issue to my attention. Thanks. As for people who are sending hate mail -- is there ever reason for hate mail?

Well, they're strong believers in organic food and buying local, and Dagoba is, or at least was, one of their examples of a good company.

Too bad.

And what they need to do is to tell everyone who ate an Eclipse bar in the last six months that they can get a free blood test for lead on Dagoba's dime, with an insurance pool set up to pay claims for such tests on a speedy and professional basis. At least do that for consumers like me who called.

They're not doing that.

4.5 parts per million. Wow. That's criminally inexcusable. Their stonewalling is inexcusable as well, if not unexpected. Even lefty companies act in their own interests when push comes to lead-filled shove. So much for corporate responsibility, eh?

I wish that isn't what my test shows, but it is. It will be very interesting to see how the company will respond now.

While the bars with higher cocoa content were recalled, one has to wonder about the ones with lower content as well. I've never consumed an Eclipse bar but I've certainly eaten my share of the others. The Eclipse, at 87%, is worthy of a recall, but the Xocolatl, at 74%, is not? While it is possible that different batches of chocolate were used in different types of bars' formulation, I'm doubtful. Afterall, it isn't just the Eclipse that is being recalled but also some of their high cocoa content baking products.

Jack, your test results are disturbing. Thank you for posting them. I'm glad you've brought attention to this issue and I'm sorry that it has brought you unnecessary attention.

It is quite possible that the cocoa used in other Dagoba products was from completely different sources from those used in Eclipse. The company was saying that the Eclipse source was somewhere in Ecuador. The complete recall list is here.

And thanks for your support. Frankly I was shocked when I was attacked over this.

Does anyone know how the lead got in the bars?

Was it natural or introduced at some step in the processing?

Is it true that the federal standards are set at 1/10 the lowest level that has ever shown harm AND assumes quite high consumption levels?


Dagoba's CEO went down to Ecuador, reportedly to test the soils in the production area. Others suggest that the problem must be in production. Whatever the source, I ate a lot of stuff that shouldn't be sold in a U.S. supermarket.

This could be your ticket to an early retirement courtesy of Dagoba. Of course, then you might not have long . . .

Anyway, the complain to employers about totally unrelated to work issues seems to be the latest technique used by desperate, whiny babies. It's happened twice to me. Thankfully my managers were smart enough to see past the cranks. And being in a union shop helps too.

Out of curiosity, did you ever take in a Hershey's bar for analysis? The stories I read blame most cocoa being grown close to a lot of auto pollution which gets in the ground and on the leaves.

So have you, or are you going to get a blood test to see how bad off you are?

I'm not a lawyer (though I enjoy watching actors portraying lawyers on TV), but wouldn't it be extraordinarily difficult to prove that elevated lead levels in your blood were caused by Dagoba? I mean, you could have had that lead in your blood before you ingested the chocolate, and you could have eaten things after the chocolate that also contained lead. Unless you had a pre-Dagoba blood test showing no lead in your blood, and then had everything you ate since the Dagoba tested for lead, there's really no way to prove that it was the chocolate that elevated the lead levels in your blood, no?

There's all sorts of stuff in that imported food. For a few chuckles, learn all about FDA's current food import alerts at http://www.fda.gov/ora/fiars/ora_import_foods.html.

In my deep past I used to manage a food testing laboratory. We regularly conducted import inspections (and the results of our inspections were submitted to FDA to obtain import clearances for foods and dishware).

In my experience, the lead came from processing equipment (grinding equipment, glazes on bowls, etc).

You can encounter lead from even the most enjoyable activities:

You can quantify lead residue on wine bottles, left behind from the lead foil used to seal the neck.

You can ingest lead when you crimp a fishing weight with your teeth.

You might ingest lead when you drink orange juice out of that pretty glazed mug obtained south of the border.

You can ingest lead when sanding the paint from your historic window sash.

"I'm in the wrong to say anything about it...?"

Wait til they hit you with the SLAPP suit for defamation.

I had a boss once that said you need to take the negative feedback as a badge of honor. It means that you are actually making people think and form opinions...even if they are different from yours. It's the exchange of ideas, opinions and experiences that precede change.

If a company, any company, cannot step up when there are mistakes, they should be called out. Besides, it's all Bush's fault. Almost six long years of him unwilling to admit when he's made a mistake gives the impression to others that it's an okay thing to do.

And just look at the upside. If you start acting erratic, we can just blame the Dagoba bars.

"Don't mind Jack, that's just the lead talking."

Oh... and inquiring minds want to know if this increases your octane number?

I assume you will be writing a letter to the editor at the Oregonian. Why wouldn't you be?

If it's any comfort - if you eat one candy bar with 9x the allowed lead, is not that the same as eating 9 legal-lead candy bars?? and if so (it may be small comfort!) one wouldn't expect lasting lead damage from eating 9 chocolate bars (your waistline will be more threatened than your lead level)

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