the War on SPAM- Cocoa Mulch edition
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Much Ado About Cocoa Mulch

©2006 The Media Desk

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Believe it or not, this one WAS true, well, at least part of it was.

      But first let's look at the attribution in the email. Yes, checks things out, since when does GOOGLE investigate anything? Evidently the spam-writer wasn't thinking.

      While there doesn't seem to be any truth to the heart rending story in the email. There is truth to the fact that unprocessed cocoa mulch can be toxic to dogs. However, they would have to eat a LOT of it at one time or small amounts over a long period of time for the results to be fatal.

From the ASPCA's page on the subject:

Cocoa Bean Mulch As A Cause Of Methylxanthine Toxicosis In Dogs

Background: Cocoa bean shells, a by-product of chocolate production, are sold as mulch for landscaping. Homeowners find cocoa mulch desirable because it degrades into an organic fertilizer and provides an attractive color and odor. Unprocessed beans, derived from the Theobroma cacao plant, contain 1-4% theobromine/0.07-0.36% caffeine whereas, cocoa bean mulch contains 0.19%-2.98% theobromine. Some dogs find the mulch attractive and eat small to large quantities.

      So it is safe to say there WAS a problem with cocoa mulch. At least there was in 2003 from when the news stories were out about the problem. Since then the email and the news story have entered the world of Urban Legends and are forwarded by the well meaning but gullible who make up the 'true believer' crowd that keep these things alive.

In any case.

      The Hershey Company has pulled their web page about their brand of Cocoa Mulch and has nothing on their site commenting on it at all. The former product website: now resolves to the company site: with no further information available.

      Also. The garden supply shops listed in the email no longer sell the product and it is almost impossible to find it on line. The following information is from Home Depot's website on their mulch page

Is the cocoa mulch sold at The Home Depot harmful to pets?
The Home Depot does not and will not sell mulch harmful to pets. The mulch sold by The Home Depot containing cocoa shells goes through several cleaning processes, including a high heat system in order to strip the cocoa fat from the shells without the use of any chemicals. The Home Depot has very strict policies and procedures in place to ensure the integrity of the mulch products sold in our stores. All The Home Depot mulch suppliers are required to be certified by the Mulch and Soil Council (MSC) which created the industry standards and criteria for mulch and soil certification and inspection.

More at:

SPAM-PANIC partial truth Email below.
Body of email edited for readability

TO: themediadesk
FROM: ms K
SUBJECT: Is this one true?

intervening forwarding stuff removed

I thought this warranted wide coverage:

Verified by Snopes com & BY GOOGLE

Yesterday one of our dog agility friends experienced a tragedy and wanted me to pass a special message along to all of my dog loving friends and family. Please tell the other dog owners you know.

Over the weekend the doting owner of two young lab mixes purchased Cocoa Mulch from Target to use in their garden. They loved the way it smelled and it was advertised to keep cats away from their garden. Their dog Calypso, decided that the mulch smelled good enough to eat and devoured a large helping. She vomited a few times which was typical when she eats something new but wasn't acting lethargic in any way. The next day, Mom woke up and took Calypso out for her morning walk. Half way through the walk, she had a seizure and died instantly.

Although the mulch had NO warnings printed on the label, upon further investigation on the company’s website, this product is HIGHLY toxic to dogs.

Cocoa Mulch is manufactured by Hershey's, and they claim that "It is true that studies have shown that 50% of the dogs that eat Cocoa Mulch can suffer physical harm to a variety of degrees (depending on each individual dog). However, 98% of all dogs won't eat it."

True information about the mulch can be found here - This site gives the following information:

Cocoa Mulch, which is sold by Home Depot, Foreman's Garden Supply and other Garden supply stores, contains a lethal ingredient called "Theobromine". It is lethal to dogs and cats. It smells like chocolate and it really attracts dogs. They will ingest this stuff and die. Several deaths already occurred in the last 2-3 weeks. Just a word of caution, check what you are using in your gardens and be aware of what your gardeners are using in your gardens.

Theobromine is the ingredient that is used to make all chocolate, especially dark or baker's chocolate, which is toxic to dogs. Cocoa bean shells contain potentially toxic quantities of theobromine, a xanthine compound similar in effects to caffeine and theophylline. A dog that ingested a lethal quantity of garden mulch made from cacao bean shells developed severe convulsions and died 17 hours later. Analysis of the stomach contents and the ingested cacao bean shells revealed the presence of lethal amounts of theobromine.

Please email the manufacturer at m[removed] and request that accurate information about this product be posted on the packaging to avoid further tragedy.

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