European Union Limits On Contaminants In The Cacao Value Chain: An Overview

Published On: April 15, 20242.3 min read

Whether you are a cocoa bean supplier exporting to the European Union or a chocolate maker producing and selling their chocolate in Europe, it’s essential you are aware of the MRL’s (maximum residue levels) applicable to contaminants in cacao, semi-processed cacao products and chocolate.

Good products begin with food safety

By knowing the risks linked to the food safety and integrity of your product, you will know which precautions you must take and which questions to ask when buying or selling your cocoa beans.

Awareness, knowledge and responsiblity of food safety throughout the cacao value chain

As an importer and distributor, Daarnhouwer has the responsibility to guarantee that all of its cocoa beans comply with EU food health regulations. We have mapped the risks according to region, country and production and post-production methods and have our cocoa beans tested accordingly.

Whether you import directly from a partner in origin or through a third party, stay updated on regulatory requirements through EU websites, talk to your importer or distributor and stay informed on the production, post-production, transportation and warehousing practices that are applied to the cocoa beans you use.

Applicable MRL’s of Contaminants in Cocoa Beans and Chocolates

Below you will find a small overview of contaminants and their limits according to the current EU rules and regulations. Keep in mind that regulations might change over time.

🍫 Polycyclic-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Maximum Limit: 5.0 μg /kg benzoapyrene and 30 μg/kg of fat in total
🍫 Cadmium

Maximum Limit: Cadmium levels are calculated based on the concentration in finished chocolate products.

• Chocolate Product Maximum Permitted Levels mg/kg

• Milk Chocolate with <= 30% total dry cocoa solids .10

• Chocolate with with => 30% to < 50% total dry cocoa solids .30

• Chocolate with => 50% total dry cocoa solids .80

• Cacao powder as sold to final consumer .60

To be on the safe side, importers and chocolate manufacturers usually will accept cadmium levels in cocoa beans which would translate into lower levels in chocolate than those permitted by the EU.

🍫 Pesticide Residues

Maximum residue levels: In the EU Pesticides Database you can find the latest version of the MRL’s which are applicable to cocoa beans.

🍫 Mycotoxins: Ochratoxin A

Maximum limit: the European Union has established a maximum level of 3 mg/kg of cocoa powder. At the time of writing, there are no regulations on cocoa beans regarding mycotoxins.

🍫 Mineral Oil Hydrocarbons: Mineral Oil Saturated Hydrocarbons – MOSH and Mineral Oil Aromatic Hydrocarbons – MOAH

Maximum limit: MOAH 1 mg/kg for foods with a higher fat/oil content than 4% and 2 mg/kg for oils and fats

You can read more about the definitions and causes of each of these contaminants and access links to other sources of information through our Cocoa Story on this topic.

Share this article

Follow us

Check out our wide selection of cocoa flavours and origins in our Cocoa Boutique

Latest articles