The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating several brands of applesauce and puree pouches marketed to children because tests detected lead contamination.
Friday, the agency said it had been told of at least seven illnesses across multiple states that were linked to the pouches.
“Two new companies, Schnucks Markets, of St. Louis, and Weis Markets, of Sunbury, Pennsylvania, announced recalls of certain cinnamon applesauce products because they may contain high levels of lead,” The Associated Press reported. “WanaBana, of Coral Gables, Florida, previously recalled all lots and expiration dates of its apple cinnamon fruit puree.”
The recall includes all lot codes and expiration dates of WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree pouches and Schnucks brand cinnamon-flavored Apple Sauce Fruit Pouches and the variety pack. Specific lots of Weis brand Cinnamon Apple Sauce pouches (UPC 041497216123) are subject to recall, as well.
The FDA warned that eating the products could lead to “acute toxicity.”
The health impact of lead
The FDA advisory notes that lead is toxic to people and can affect anyone at any age. But children are more vulnerable to lead toxicity.
“Most children have no obvious immediate symptoms. Parents and caretakers should consult a health care provider if you suspect a child may have been exposed to lead. Short-term exposure to lead could result in the following symptoms: headache; abdominal pain/colic; vomiting; anemia. Longer term exposure could result in the following additional symptoms: irritability; lethargy; fatigue; muscle aches or muscle prickling/burning; constipation; difficulty concentrating/muscular weakness; tremor; weight loss,” the notice said.
There’s no safe level of lead in the blood. Among lasting impacts, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are brain and nervous system damage, slowed development, learning and behavior problems, and hearing and speech problems. The agency says children may have lower IQ, less ability to pay attention and may underperform academically.
The CDC also reports that “lead can be found throughout a child’s environment,” including not just food, but older homes with lead-based paint, certain water pipes, some products including toys, cosmetics and jewelry, some candies, and from certain jobs and hobbies. Soil and water can also be contaminated.
According to the CDC, “Lead-contaminated soil continues to be a hazardous source of lead exposure for young children in the United States. Deposits from leaded gasoline, exterior lead-based paint, and industrial sources have contributed to increased levels of lead in the soil. This is especially common in urban areas and homes built before 1978.”
The AP said that the investigation started in North Carolina, “where health officials are looking into reports of four children with elevated blood levels linked to the WanaBana product. State health officials analyzed multiple lots of the product and detected ‘extremely high’ concentrations of lead. The FDA confirmed the results.”
The investigation is now being led by the FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Research and Evaluation Network in partnership with the CDC and state and local agencies.
AP reported that the products are sold at a number of stores, including Amazon, Dollar Tree, and Schnucks and Eat Well Markets.
Because the products are designed to have a long shelf life, the FDA recommends people check their pantries and food supplies. The products should be thrown away, the agency said.