Concentrations and bioavailability of cadmium (Cd) and lead (Pb) were determined in cocoa powders and related products (beans, liquor, butter) of different geographical origins. Particular attention was paid to the fractionation of these metals, which was investigated by determining the metal fraction soluble in extractant solutions acting selectively with regard to the different classes of ligands. The targeted classes of Cd and Pb species included: water-soluble compounds, polypeptide and polysaccharide complexes, and compounds soluble in simulated gastrointestinal conditions. The bioavailability of Cd and Pb from cocoa powder, liquor and butter was evaluated using a sequential enzymolysis approach. The data obtained as a function of the geographical origin of the samples indicated strong differences not only in terms of the total Cd and Pb concentrations, but also with regard to the bioavailability of these metals. The Cd concentrations in the cocoa powders varied from 94 to 1833 microg kg(-1), of which 10-50% was potentially bioavailable. The bioavailability of Pb was generally below 10% and the concentrations measured in the cocoa powders were in the 11-769 microg kg(-1) range. Virtually all the Cd and most of Pb were found in the cocoa powder after the pressing of the liquor.
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