Some of us don’t want to live in a world without chocolate, but we may have to if a South American disease spreads to cocoa plants in Africa.

Julianna Kettlewell writes in that the two diseases ravaging cocoa plants are called “witches’ broom” and “frosty pod.” They are both fungi and are closely related. WBD causes the branches of cocoa trees to become swollen, giving them the appearance of witches’ brooms, while FP attacks the pods containing the cocoa beans, leaving them with a white coating.
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A lawsuit was filed in May saying that chocolate contains levels of lead and cadmium that could be dangerous to children. The American Environmental Safety Institute went to court in Los Angeles claiming that some of the nation’s largest candy makers have known about the presence of the heavy metals in their products, but have not done anything about it.

“We will prove in court that the chocolate companies have knowingly and intentionally exposed consumers, especially children, to potentially dangerous levels of lead and cadmium without providing a clear and reasonable warning of the health risks,” says Roger Carrick, the institute’s attorney. The suit names Mars Inc., Hershey Foods, Nestle USA, Kraft Foods North America, See’s Candies and Rocky Mountain Chocolate. read more

If you were given a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day, you’ll be glad to learn that a tribe of Indians who eat a lot of cocoa have shown that chocolate may prevent high blood pressure.

The Kuna tribe from Panama consume on average five cups of cocoa a day and include cocoa in many of their recipes. They have none of the rises in blood pressure rises that usually occur with age. Ingredients in chocolate called flavanols may promote the production of nitric oxide, which is a chemical that opens up the arteries to increase blood flow.
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