Cost-effective Method of Analysis for the Determination of Cadmium, Copper, Nickel and Zinc in Cocoa Beans and Chocolates

Gideon Ramtahal, Ivan Chang Yen, Isaac Bekele, Frances Bekele, Lawrence Wilson, Balmatee Sukha, Kamaldeo Maharaj


The determination of heavy metals in cocoa beans and chocolates is of great importance, due to increasingly stringent regulations being implemented by international legislative bodies and chocolate manufacturers, to protect the health of their consumers. While various techniques exist for heavy metal analyses in cocoa, this study developed a cost-effective, accurate and precise method capable of processing up to 120 samples per batch for the determination of cadmium, copper, nickel and zinc. For sample extractions, a normal laboratory hot plate and locally fabricated high-capacity digestion blocks were used, instead of dedicated block digestion or microwave digestion systems. In addition, only concentrated nitric acid was used, instead of mixed reagents used in standardized methods, for metal extractions from samples, with a sample: extractant ratio of 0.5 g : 10 mL, digestion at 130 ºC, followed by filtration and analysis by flame atomic absorption spectrophotometry. The method was validated with Certified Reference Materials, with heavy metal recoveries generally >95%. Additionally, an in-house quality control sample of ground cocoa nib analyzed together with the Certified Reference Materials was used to monitor the consistency of analyses of heavy metals in cocoa bean samples.


method, heavy metals, cocoa, chocolate

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Journal of Food Research   ISSN 1927-0887 (Print)   ISSN 1927-0895 (Online)  E-mail:

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