Editor’s Note: This guest column by Gerrit J. Verburg, owner of Gerrit J. Verburg Co., is in response to a recent column by Managing Editor Crystal Lindell, Why we shouldn’t be worried about lead in chocolate. The column has been edited by Candy Industry Magazine.

I fully agree with your reasoning on the issue of lead in chocolate.

At the same time I might add that I am somewhat envious to see that Hershey and Mars are getting your moral support.

Maybe you are aware that two years ago black licorice manufacturers went through the same struggle with California.

Instead of hanging together, we all had to fight our own legal battle. My company ended up with a $70k legal bill and we were able to avoid the penalty imposed by the Californian lawyers, which ranged from $50k to $125k.

For candies the maximum lead level set by the FDA is 100 ppb (part per billion) while California’s standards were 10 ppb.

During the legal process the California standard had been changed to 35 ppb. Many licorice varieties cannot be found on the U.S. market as a result of this. Could this have been avoided? Definitely! A cohesive defense could have reached a much better settlement. In my view it could and should been set at 50 to 60 ppb.

It is my wish that Hershey will succeed and that — albeit late — the marketers of licorice will be included in the same agreement.

Having said this, I have become a strong advocate on reducing the lead content in licorice and I have encouraged my suppliers since then to come up with “cleaner” recipes. Nobody needs lead in their foods. I do not know any details on the origin of lead in chocolate but I would not be surprised that the degree of lead level in chocolates is partially determined by the country of origin.

Happy to be selling my products to very loyal licorice connoisseurs.

—   Gerrit J. Verburg