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Recently I talked to a chocolate producer and was told that organically grown cocoa beans are being fumigated prior to entering the United States, using the same kind of gas as the one for fumigating homes.


How in the world can you still call these beans "organic" after being treated with poisonous gas?


I appreciate your opinion in this matter.


Helmut Placek

Tags: beans, chocolate, cocoa, fumigating, importing, organic, pestizide

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Methyl Bromide is the agent used to fumigate cocoa beans and wooden pallets. A process that has been used for many years to prevent the importation" of insects and other pests. There are other ways to obtain pest free certificates but at additional costs.

Excerpt from workers safety manual

Health effects of methyl bromide

Methyl bromide is highly toxic to humans and animals. It may be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Acute exposure can cause severe chemical burns of the skin, eyes and airways, delayed chemical pneumonia which produces water in the lungs, severe kidney damage and has devastating effects on the central nervous system. The effects may be fatal.

If a person inhales smaller amounts of methyl bromide it may produce effects that give the appearance of alcohol intoxication such as mental confusion, double vision, tremors, lack of co-ordination and slurred speech. Repeated mild exposures accumulate and cause skin rashes.

The most likely mode of exposure is by inhalation of the gas. The gas cannot be smelt until at dangerous concentrations so exposure above acceptable levels may occur unknowingly. Methyl bromide may also cause burns to the skin or eyes and may be absorbed through the skin. Soil applications are particularly likely to cause burns to the feet and legs.

The effect of methyl bromide poisoning is permanent and irreversible. If any symptoms occur within 24 hours of exposure then medical attention is required.
I sincerely doubt that methyl bromide can be used on organically-certified cocoa beans.  If so, the integrity of the organic system is called into question.  A food microbiologist colleague told me recently that CO2 is used in fumigation;  it takes longer, however.  Producing semi-finished product in the country of origin is a fairly low-cost way of getting rid of pests, as beans are roasted around 280 degrees F.  Problem with semi-finished product is the import duties.  The EU slaps a 9.7 % import duty on semi-finished product.


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