Cinnamon in contaminated applesauce pouches had ‘extremely high levels of lead,’ FDA says

The Food and Drug Administration announced Monday that a sample of cinnamon used as an additive in the recalled WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree contained lead levels more than 2,000-fold higher than the proposed safety limits.

As part of its investigation into cases of lead poisoning among children in the U.S., the FDA has tested samples of cinnamon applesauce. At least 69 cases were reported to the FDA as of Tuesday.

WanaBana USA issued a recall at the end of October for its apple cinnamon puree pouches due to elevated levels of lead. In November, two more products were added to the memory: Schnuck applesauce pouches with Cinnamon and Weis cinnamon applesauce.

Weis, WanaBana, and Schnucks cinnamon apple sauce pouches.FDA

According to the FDA, the most likely cause of lead contamination is cinnamon.

The pouches of applesauce are produced in Ecuador at an Austrofoods facility. The FDA sampled cinnamon in that facility. Negasmart, a supplier from Ecuador, is the source of this cinnamon.

The FDA stated that its testing revealed that cinnamon samples had “extremely elevated levels of lead.” An example of cinnamon contained 5,110 parts per million of lead, which is about 2,000-fold higher than the international safety standard proposed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization for spices, including cinnamon of 2.5 parts per millimeter.

A second sample had lead levels of 2,270 parts per million.

Laurie Beyranevand of Vermont Law and Graduate School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems described the findings as frightening.

She said, “These levels are far above what could be expected or considered as safe.”

The U.S. does not limit the amount of lead that can be found in food. The FDA set limits for information on baby food. However, these guidelines won’t be finalized before 2025.

According to the FDA, products that don’t contain cinnamon and are made by WanaBana do not pose a risk of lead contamination.

What Parents Need to Know About the Applesauce Recall Due to Lead Poisoning

The FDA has confirmed that it tested 136 samples of non-cinnamon flavored WanaBana, including two mango products. “All have been negative for increased lead levels,” the FDA stated. Dollar Tree’s website has the mango passionfruit banana blend even though it says “unavailable” at this time.

The agency said that it has also confirmed that Negasmart, the supplier of the cinnamon, does not ship directly to the U.S.

The FDA released a statement on Friday stating that the lead contamination of the cinnamon pouches could be due to economically motivated adulteration. NBC News couldn’t reach Negasmart.

The FDA states that food fraud occurs when a cheaper product is added to an existing product in order to improve it or make it bulkier, but the ingredient is not disclosed. The FDA cites as an example when spices are dyed with lead-based dyes to achieve a specific color.

WanaBana has said that it is working closely with the FDA to investigate its product.

The company announced on Monday that it would reimburse parents of children who were affected by the recall for “up to $150 in total” if they visited a doctor and had blood tests done to check for lead poisoning.


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