In the past four days the number of children sickened by lead in imported applesauce products has grown from 22 to 34, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
The implicated Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree pouches were manufactured in Ecuador and sold under WanaBana, Weis and Schnucks brands. All three products have been recalled. The recall impacts markets outside of the United States. Customer information provided by the firm shows that product was also distributed to Cuba and the United Arab Emirates.
Parents and care givers should not feed children the implicated products and should not eat them themselves. The recalled WanaBana applesauce was distributed nationwide through a variety of retailers and online. The Schnuck’s and Weis products were sold through those regional grocery store chains.
As part of an ongoing investigation the FDA and state public health officials have collected and analyzed product samples of fruit puree and applesauce pouches. FDA detected elevated levels of lead in a finished product sample of WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Puree collected from Dollar Tree. The level detected in the FDA sample is 2.18 parts per million (ppm), which is more than 200 times greater than the action level the FDA has proposed in draft guidance for fruit purees and similar products intended for babies and young children.
The problem was initially discovered by public health officials in North Carolina during their investigation of children with high levels of lead in their blood. North Carolina officials were able to identify WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches as a potential shared source of exposure. As part of their investigation, North Carolina public health officials analyzed multiple lots of WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit puree, detecting extremely high concentrations of lead.
“FDA’s leading hypothesis is that cinnamon used in these recalled pouches is the likely source of contamination for these products; however, the FDA has not yet been able to collect and test samples of the cinnamon used in the recalled products. The FDA is continuing to work with Ecuadorian authorities to investigate the source of the cinnamon. At this time, FDA has no indication that this issue extends beyond these recalled products, but to further protect public health, FDA is screening incoming shipments of cinnamon from multiple countries for lead contamination,” according to the FDA’s update.
At this time, the FDA is not aware of any other reports of illnesses or elevated blood lead level adverse events reported for other cinnamon-containing products or cinnamon, according to the Nov. 17 notice.
The problem was initially discovered by public health officials in North Carolina during their investigation of children with high levels of lead in their blood. North Carolina officials were able to identify WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches as a potential shared source of exposure. As part of their investigation, North Carolina officials analyzed multiple lots of WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit puree, detecting extremely high concentrations of lead.
Lead is toxic to humans and can affect people of any age or health status, but children are particularly susceptible to lead toxicity. Lead poisoning can result in several long-term problems, including developmental disorders and brain damage.
“These products have a long shelf life. Consumers should check their homes and discard these products. Most children have no obvious immediate symptoms of lead exposure,” according to the FDA’s alert. “If there’s suspicion that a child may have been exposed to lead, parents should talk to their child’s healthcare provider about getting a blood test.”
Short-term exposure to lead can result in the following symptoms: headache, abdominal pain/colic, vomiting, and anemia. Longer-term exposure could result in additional symptoms: irritability, lethargy, fatigue, muscle aches or muscle prickling/burning, constipation, difficulty concentrating/muscular weakness, tremors, and weight loss.
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