FDA Investigates Cinnamon as Possible Source of Lead Contamination in Fruit Puree Products

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported on Friday that early findings suggest cinnamon may be the culprit behind elevated lead levels in fruit puree pouches, causing illness in 34 children.

Collaborating with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the FDA has been examining cases related to the consumption of Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree pouches produced in Ecuador, sold under the WanaBana, Weis, and Schnucks brands—all of which have been recalled.

In an updated alert, the FDA revealed the detection of exceptionally high lead levels, measuring 2.18 parts per million, in a WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Puree sample from Dollar Tree. This level surpasses the proposed action level in FDA draft guidance for baby and toddler fruit purees by more than 200 times.

While non-cinnamon-containing pouches from WanaBana, Weis, and Schnucks that are not part of the recall haven’t exhibited heightened lead levels, the FDA’s leading theory is that the cinnamon used in the recalled products is the probable source. However, the agency is yet to collect and test samples of the cinnamon from the affected pouches. Collaborating with Ecuadorian authorities, the FDA is actively working to identify the cinnamon’s source and screening incoming cinnamon shipments from various countries for lead contamination.

The initial October alert revealed that the WanaBana products were linked to elevated lead levels in four children from North Carolina. Subsequently, cases of high blood lead levels have emerged in 22 states, including Alabama, California, New York, and Texas, among others.

Underlining manufacturers’ legal obligation to prevent chemical hazards, the FDA stressed that companies must take measures to minimize or eliminate lead presence in their products. The FDA strongly advised against consuming or serving these recalled products, urging families to dispose of the pouches or return them to the store for a refund.

Emphasizing the potential toxicity of lead, especially in children, the CDC recommended blood tests for those who may have consumed the affected products. Lead exposure can lead to developmental delays in children, with symptoms including headaches, stomach pain, muscle aches, vomiting, anemia, irritability, fatigue, and weight loss. The CDC asserts that there is no safe level of lead exposure.

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