FDA Ties Lead-Tainted Applesauce to Cinnamon

'WaPo' probe finds nearly 120 kids with lead poisoning after consuming applesauce pouches
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2023 8:50 AM CST
Numbers Affected by Tainted Kids' Applesauce on the Rise
This image provided by the FDA on Nov. 17 shows three recalled applesauce products from WanaBana, Schnucks, and Weis.   (FDA via AP)

Back in October, a handful of kids in North Carolina turned up with elevated lead levels in their blood, tied back to the WanaBana brand of applesauce pouches. Now, the Washington Post reveals that nearly 120 children may be victims of such poisoning. The paper reports that, per its own probe, there are 118 confirmed or suspected cases in 31 states, substantially higher than the five dozen or so cases in 27 states that the Food and Drug Administration had tallied. So far, affected brands include WanaBana, Weis, and Schnucks. The FDA says that it believes the higher lead levels in these pouches is tied to the cinnamon found in the applesauce puree, as samples taken from cinnamon-less products didn't show the same spike in lead levels.

The AP reported last week that the FDA is investigating an Austrofood plant in Ecuador where the pouches were manufactured, as well as a company called Negasmart, which supplies the cinnamon for the applesauce. The latter company is now facing sanctions over the tainted pouches, which are sold in Dollar Tree and on Amazon, among other outlets. The findings have spurred concern over whether the FDA is doing a good enough job of keeping toxic substances out of foods meant for babies and toddlers. "We know that lead has major impacts on child development and health," Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth says in a statement, per the Post. "Our nation must do more to get lead out of the food we feed them."

Parents of kids who've been affected by the bad applesauce are sharing their feelings on the matter. "I go back and forth between feeling guilty that I fed her this ... and angry that this company sold me this product that I thought was safe," one North Carolina mom tells the Post. A class-action suit on behalf of affected families is now in the works. More here on how the detective work of North Carolina health officials helped potentially crack the case, as well as a theory on how the cinnamon may have become contaminated. (More lead poisoning stories.)

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