United States

US Judge Dismisses Most Claims in Lawsuit Against Trader Joe's Over Dark Chocolate Heavy Metal Concerns

The case, officially known as In re Trader Joe’s Company Dark Chocolate Litigation, was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of California.

Representative image Photo: Pexels

In a ruling issued on Wednesday, US District Judge Ruth Bermudez Montenegro dismissed the majority of a lawsuit accusing Trader Joe's of deceiving and endangering consumers by allegedly concealing harmful levels of heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium, in its dark chocolate bars.

Judge Montenegro, presiding over the case in San Diego, declared that consumers in the proposed class action had failed to sufficiently demonstrate that the chocolate sold by the grocery chain posed an unreasonable safety risk or was unfit for consumption.

"While the absence of warnings on labels may mislead reasonable consumers, asserting that heavy metals may present human health risks at some unspecified level does not imply that the levels found in Trader Joe's products constitute a human health risk," she emphasized in her ruling.

The judge dismissed five claims brought forth by shoppers nationwide, including allegations of violating California consumer protection laws and breaching an implied warranty of the chocolate's safety. However, she permitted the plaintiffs to revise their complaint.

Claims filed on behalf of consumers from Illinois, New York, and Washington under the respective states' laws were allowed to proceed.

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday, while Trader Joe's and its legal representatives also remained silent in response to similar inquiries.

The lawsuit against Trader Joe's was among several filed against chocolate manufacturers following a December 2022 study by Consumer Reports. The study identified potentially harmful levels of lead, cadmium, or both in dark chocolate bars, particularly for individuals consuming over one ounce of chocolate daily.

These heavy metals are known to occur naturally in soil. Consumer Reports has warned that prolonged exposure to them can result in nervous system disorders, immune system suppression, and kidney damage, with pregnant women and young children being particularly vulnerable.

Other chocolate sellers, such as Godiva, Hershey, Lindt, and Mars, the maker of Dove chocolate, along with Trader Joe's, were also targeted in lawsuits over their dark chocolate products. The case, against Trader Joe's, consolidated five lawsuits from 17 different law firms. It alleged undisclosed levels of lead, cadmium, and arsenic, another heavy metal, in eight varieties of dark chocolate bars, citing the Consumer Reports study and independent laboratory testing.