Michaels Charles with more details on the Dagoba Chocolate recall:
Sources disclose that Dagoba Chocolate owner, Frederick Schilling, has already jumped on a plane for Ecuador to find out what could possibly have occurred to result in certain late 2005 lots of Dagoba Eclipse bars (and other products using Ecuadoran single-origin beans) testing positive for excessive lead levels. All the affected chocolate has been recalled by Dagoba.
Educated speculation is that something must be seriously amiss where the cacao was grown. Natural growing conditions–cacao trees tend to grow scattered about under the rain forest canopy–should not give rise to this kind of problem. The Oregonian reported speculation that volcanic soils are to blame. Since the same chocolate has been sold for at least a couple of years without reports of prior problems, this hypothesis seems questionable.
Compounding the lead problem itself is the probable failure of testing in Ecuador. Before the cocoa liquor is delivered to Dagoba for chocolate manufacture, it is supposed to have been tested and given a clean bill of health. Such was apparently the case here. Internal testing at Dagoba is reported to have revealed the high lead levels. This raises the specter that the on-site testing was inaccurate or misreported, assuming it was done at all.
This story is but one variant of the multifaceted problems arising from lucrative cacao production in developing countries. Earlier stories have focused on indentured or slave labor conditions in some cacao producing countries in Africa. Purely in terms of production difficulties, what we are observing currently are production conditions in which there may be a lax attitude toward quality control. As one can imagine, the problem is no acuter than it is for a manufacturer like Dagoba which prides itself not only producing high-quality products but superior chocolate that is also organic.
Recalling a reported 40,000 pounds of chocolate–nearly 5% of Dagoba’s entire 2005 production–had to be as gut-wrenching as it was unavoidable. Those of us who know Frederick Schilling and the Dagoba crew wish them all well as they deal with this difficult financial and public relations challenge.