Cocoa-laden Cadmium Threatens Human Health and Cacao Economy: A Critical View

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Jun 10;720:137645. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.137645. Epub 2020 Feb 29.

Abstract

In the recent decades, Cd burden in cocoa-based products threatened global food safety, human health and the future of chocolateries. Increased Cd bioavailability is an acute problem in cacao-based horticulture. Poverty, poor maintenance, unjustified traditional farming, and paucity of knowledge on Cd-binding propensity in cacao discourage the application of risk-mitigation measures. Progressive accumulation of Cd, with a half-life of 10-30 years, in the human body even at ultra-trace levels may lead to serious health complications. If Cd accumulates in the food chain through cocoa products, consequences in children, who are the primary consumers of chocolates, include morbidity and mortality that may result in a significant demographic transition by the year 2050. Developing cacao clones with an innate capability of taking up low Cd levels from soils, and site-specific Cd-cacao research might contribute to limiting the trophic transfer of Cd. This review highlights the possible routes for Cd uptake in cacao plants and discusses the measures to rescue the chocolateries from Cd pollution to promote "healthy" cacao farming. The potential human health risks of chocolate-laden Cd and mitigation strategies to minimize Cd burden in the human body are also presented. The challenges and prospects in Cd-cacao research are discussed as well.

Keywords: Cd-cocoa linkage; Health risks in children; Theobroma cacao; Threat to chocolateries; Trophic transfer of Cd.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cacao*
  • Cadmium
  • Humans
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants

Substances

  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Cadmium