I am wondering with all the new small bean to bar chocolate makers if any are getting heavy metal testing done. This I am curious about because some makers maybe get a bag or two in from obscure sources and heavy metal testing may not be something that they think they need to do. I know that Haigh's here in Adelaide are very concerned about this aspect and every shipment is evaluated for heavy metals. With their import size as well Australian customs would get on their case about the levels too but with smaller imports they may slip through - at least for a little while until customs catch on.
Is it common practice for plantations to have their soils tested or beans tested before export? I would guess no judging by the fact that Haigh's test everything.
Also I do know that the Australian growers have their soils tested and this was a very important aspect of setting up the plantations.
I do not know of a single grower that routinely does heavy metal testing.
Haigh's have to play by the rules.
In Australia (unlike in many other countries) there is maximum limit of 0.5ppm for Cadmium content in chocolate.
This means that beans from places like Ecuador or Venezuela (which have high Cadmium content) can be used only as a small part of total cocoa liquor in recipes.
Many exporters and brand owners will do heavy metals testing, but i've never met a grower who does. S. and C. American soils are heavily volcanic, which in turn translates into the flesh of the bean. Lead - which often is on the shell - is relatively easy to remove and mitigate. Cadmium - which gets incorporated into the flesh to a higher degree than does lead - becomes more difficult to 'wash off', and blending strategies are employed if there are country specific regulations (Japan's another country with high hurdle regulations, for example)
The limit is not just a guide.
Australian New Zealand Food Standard in Part 1.4.1 sets Maximum Level for heavy metal contaminants in food product and the maximum level for Cadmium in chocolate is 0.5mg/kg (not 0.5ppm as I have written above).
This is a legaly enforeable limit and applies to all chocolates sold in Australia and New Zealand.
As Sebastian correctly written above cocoa beans from some American countries have very high cadmium content which means that they can be used as a very limited percentage of your recipe.
no sir - rules are rules. the question was do any plantation owners do heavy metals testing, and while there may be one out there, i've yet to meet him. They normally don't have the technical capacity or competency to do so, and frankly it may not be in their best interest to do so even if they could. The responsibility to ensure compliance with the finished product rests with the person offering the finished product, or the person importing the raw material. larger exporters will conduct raw materials testing (pesticides, heavy metals, etc) for customers who are large enough to justify it - but again they're not going to do it for everyone as to be frank it creates a headache for them (a certain amount will fail - and then what? now they've got a pile of rejected beans that they have to find a home for - the more they test the larger the pile is going to be..and frankly they're not selling chocolate, they're selling a component of it, and have no idea at which usage level (i.e. dilution rate) you're going to use it, so they have no idea what level is appropriate for your usage rate..)
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Speaking from the South American perspective, no individual grower I've ever heard of has the capacity or resources to do this testing. and its not necessary as they sell mostly to middlemen who in turn sell to aggregators who turn bulk beans into cheap liquor for cheap nestle and winter products. No individual small producer could be held to account under the current value chain.
I assume the big co-ops in San Martin must cooperate with their US and EU clients, either here on site or there at the destination end, testing finished origin products or they couldn't comply with US / EU regs. The Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture has been concerned about this and actively opposed the latest, stricter EU cadmium regs.
As for Marañon chocolate, we have had our Pure Nacional beans and Fortunato #4 couverture tested in the US and EU and we meet all regs for cadmium content. We are fortunate that our location in the Marañon Canyon has naturally compliant soils!
Herein lies the importance of effective winnowing - ensuring as much shell as possible is out of the testing stream is helpful in ensuring as much beans as possible pass.