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cadmium, cocoa beans, cocoa products, food safety, nibs, testae, shells
There is increasing concern globally, regarding the consumption of foods contaminated with heavy metals such as cadmium (Cd), with consequent implementation of stringent food safety standards for consumer protection. Cd contents of cocoa beans can affect whether shipments of beans can be sold and whether cocoa products manufactured from beans with Cd can meet food safety standards. Cd determinations in bean exports are usually carried out on whole beans, which are comprised of nibs and the covering testae/shells, the latter being impossible to completely remove from the nibs used in chocolate and cocoa powder manufacture. The aim of this study was to evaluate the distribution of Cd levels between the nibs and shells of cocoa beans. This can allow for assessment of possible implications of the analytical protocols used for Cd determination in cocoa beans and the possible consequences for the safety of cocoa products made from such beans. Fermented and dried cocoa bean samples from different cacao-growing areas in Trinidad and Tobago were separated into nibs and shells and analysed for Cd by flame atomic absorption spectrometry, following exhaustive acid digestion. Shells of fermented and dried beans were found to contain significantly higher (P<0.05) and on average between 1 to 3 times as much Cd than the cocoa nibs. Analysis of whole cocoa beans, as well as incorporating shells in chocolates can thus result in Cd levels being significantly higher than using nibs only. These finding imply that the analysis of whole beans currently employed to determine their Cd contents, can affect the marketability and prices of cocoa beans. Questions also arise on whether the allowed incorporation of shells in the manufacture of cocoa products can affect their safety for human consumption.
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