Глобальное почвенное партнерство

From soil to chocolate: GSP working towards the reduction of cadmium in cocoa beans at the NICOLE LATAM General Assembly

The Global Soil Partnership (GSP) has been working towards the reduction of cadmium in cocoa beans since December 2021 at the NICOLE LATAM General Assembly. This has been a collaborative effort involving experts from the GSP, NICOLE LATAM and Ekos Brazil. This joint project has been dedicated to developing and implementing tools and guidelines for the prevention and remediation of soil pollution. Specifically, the aim of the project was to assess and propose mitigation measures for the presence of cadmium in cocoa beans based on conceptual models developed for the Eastern Lowlands (Trinidad and Tobago) and the State of Manabí (Ecuador).


Chocolate contains many nutrients that are very healthy, but it can sometimes be contaminated by cadmium, a toxic heavy metal present in the soil of some cocoa plantations. Cadmium, a human carcinogen, can accumulate over time in the human body with detrimental effects on the kidneys, lungs and bones. Natural occurrences like volcanic activity, forest fires, and rock weathering all contribute to cadmium's presence in soil as well as via anthropogenic activities.

Given the several factors influencing cadmium’s presence in cocoa beans, the project set out the following objectives for its initial stage:

  • identify areas of concern for in-depth study, encompassing chemical pollutants, agricultural crops and pilot locations; 
  • identify previous and ongoing research efforts regarding cadmium in cocoa; 
  • visit pilot study areas and farms to perform interviews and assess the local context, both in terms of natural- and human-induced processes; 
  • develop conceptual models at the watershed level based on a risk assessment approach; and
  • formulate conclusions and recommendations regarding possible solutions and subsequent actions

On 23August, at the General Assembly of NICOLE LATAM, Sergejus Ustinov from the GSP presented the project’s results, initial recommendations and the next steps required to minimize the level of cadmium in cocoa beans. To learn more about the pilot areas of Trinidad and Tobago and Ecuador, please refer to the project presentation from the INSOP annual meeting event here. 

On 24 August, the GSP and colleagues from EKOS Brazil met with the Consulate of Switzerland in Sao Paulo, Brazil, along with the consulate representative and the Head of the Swiss Business Hub, Mr Hans Andreas Aebi. The meeting included discussions on the significance of addressing heavy metal pollution in chocolate.The outcome was an agreement to reinforce collaboration between the GSP and Switzerland, with Mr Aebi expressing keen interest in involving Swiss chocolate industries in the project's future development.

On 25 August, a round table discussion took place, bringing together the GSP and colleagues from NICOLE Europe and EKOS Brazil with two prominent chocolate industries: Cacau Show and Dengo. During this meeting, the GSP presented the first results, recommendations and the next steps that need to be taken to minimize the level of cadmium in cocoa beans. The chocolate industries expressed their interest in participating in the future analysis of the project and suggested expanding to encompass cocoa plantations in Brazil, which can have a positive impact on the chocolate industry in the country. This marks the first interaction between the GSP and chocolate industries, potentially catalyzing transformative changes in how businesses engage with and invest in food and agricultural systems.