HOW PRODUCTS WERE EVALUATED:

How Products Were Selected:



Products were selected to represent those commonly sold and/or available nationally in the U.S. or available to U.S. consumers online. ConsumerLab.com purchased products on the open market through retail stores, on-line retailers or direct sales. Products were not accepted directly from manufacturers.

Testing Methods:
Cocoa products were tested in one or more independent laboratories for the following:
  • Identification and quantification of the flavanol monomers catechin and epicatechin and their polymer procyanidins (PACs) as a predefined molecular degree of polymerization (DP) of 1-10 by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) methodology (AOAC 2012.24).
  • Identification and quantification of the xanthine alkaloids theobromine and caffeine by HPLC for all products tested in 2017 and, in 2019, all bars and any product claiming an amount of theobromine or caffeine.
  • Quantitative analyses for lead, cadmium and arsenic by Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectroscopy (ICP-MS).
  • Disintegration time of non-chewable, non-capsule and non-time released pill formulation utilizing United States Pharmacopeia (USP) <2040> recommendations entitled "Disintegration and Dissolution of Nutritional Supplements."
Any product not passing any initial testing criteria was sent to another independent laboratory to repeat testing for the criterion on which it did not pass.

Identities of the products were not disclosed to laboratories performing the testing.

Passing Score:*
To be "Approved" by ConsumerLab.com, a product had to meet the following requirements:
  1. Contain 100% of claimed flavanols and procyanidins (PACs) as a predefined molecular degree of polymerization (DP) of 1-10 by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) methodology. For products not claiming an amount of flavanols, the amount found will be reported. Cacao fruit powders, cocoa powders, and extracts of these would be expected to contain a minimum of 2 mg of total flavanols (flavanols and PACs) per gram.
  2. Contain no less than 80% and no more than 125% of label claim for naturally occurring xanthine alkaloids (as caffeine and theobromine) or, for products claiming under 50 mg of caffeine per serving but not "caffeine free," within 10 mg of label claim. For products not claiming an amount, the amount found is reported.
  3. Heavy metals: Products must not exceed the following limits:
    Lead**: Not exceed the following limits for elemental lead:
    • Products marketed for use by children may not exceed the State of California's Prop 65 limits for lead in dietary supplements of 0.5 mcg per recommended daily serving with an additional allowance of 0.8 mcg if the product contains more than 1,000 mg/day of calcium. In addition, any type of chocolate bar likely to be consumed frequently by children may not exceed 0.1 mcg per gram (FDA limit for lead in candy, including dark chocolate, likely to be consumed frequently by children).
    • Products with a single serving weights of less than 5 grams which are not marketed for use by children, may not exceed the State of California's Prop 65 limits for lead in dietary supplements of 0.5 mcg per recommended daily serving with an additional allowance of 0.4 mcg if containing 250-999 mg/day of any combination of elemental calcium, magnesium and potassium or 0.8 mcg if containing more than 1,000 mg/day of any combination of these minerals. An additional allowance of 0.5 mcg is provided if containing 250-999 mg/day of whole herb (not extract) or 1.0 mcg if containing 1000 mg/day or more of whole herb (not extract). However, total lead allowance will not exceed 2 mcg.
    • Products with single serving weights of 5 grams or more which are not marketed for children may not exceed 2.5 mcg per serving or 4.0 mcg per daily serving.
    Cadmium**:
    • If marketed for use by children, may not exceed 3.0 micrograms of cadmium per recommended daily serving (based on Canada's limit for a child weighing 75 lbs.) If not marketed for use by children, may not exceed 4.1 micrograms of cadmium per recommended daily serving (based on the State of California's Prop 65 limit).
    Arsenic:
    • Contain less than 10 micrograms of total arsenic and no more than 5 micrograms of inorganic per daily serving (EPA limit and state of New Jersey limits - based on 1 liter of water).
  4. If applicable to the product, it must meet recommended USP <2040> parameters of disintegration for dietary supplements (excluding capsule, chewable and time-release products).
  5. Be in compliance with FDA labeling requirements.
A "Pass" was based on meeting the above criteria in either the first or second rounds of testing.* Passing scores allow for specific margins of technical error associated with each analysis. ConsumerLab.com reserves the right to disqualify a product at any time from passing its testing if it considers such product to display unacceptable variation in quality, present a safety risk or to provide misleading or inaccurate information in its labeling.

* Passing scores allow for specific margins of technical error associated with each analysis. ConsumerLab.com reserves the right to disqualify a product at any time from passing its testing if it considers such product to present a safety risk or to provide misleading or inaccurate information in its labeling.

** Based on State of California's Prop 65 limits. California requires supplements exceeding these limits to bear a warning label.

Back to review