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Elevated Lead & Chromium Levels: Cinnamon Applesauce Pouches

May 03, 2024 by FreshByte Software

Consumers are being advised to not buy, eat, sell, or serve recalled cinnamon applesauce pouch products because they may contain lead and chromium, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The recalled products include:

  • WanaBana brand apple cinnamon fruit purée pouches.
  • Schnucks brand cinnamon-flavored apple pouches.
  • Weis brand cinnamon apple pouches.

“Parents and caregivers of children who may have eaten recalled products should contact the child’s healthcare provider about getting a blood test for lead and further evaluation,” advises the CDC.

Lead-Tainted Applesauce Linked to Ecuadorian Suspect

CBS News reported in February 2024 that the contaminated products were likely the result of an intentional act by a worker in Ecuador.

“Authorities in Ecuador have named a suspect in their investigation of now-recalled lead-tainted applesauce, which has been linked to poisonings of more than 400 Americans,” reported CBS. “Ecuador's authorities allege that Carlos Aguilera, a cinnamon grinder in Ecuador, is "the likely source" of the poisonings.”

The news outlet said other spices, such as turmeric, have been intentionally tainted using lead and other substances in the past, by sellers looking to hide defects in their products or otherwise inflate the amount of money they can make.

Multiple States Reported Cases Prompting Recalls

The CDC issued a Health Alert Network (HAN) Healthy Advisory in November 2023 to advise clinicians and health departments to consider the possibility of illness due to lead exposure and report cases to their local health authorities after multiple states reported potential cases of high blood lead levels (BLSs) in children consuming recalled cinnamon-containing applesauce.

“FDA, CDC, and state and local partners are investigating a potential link between high BLLs and consuming certain cinnamon-containing apple purée and applesauce products. State partners tested multiple lots of the reported products, and test results indicated the products contained extremely high levels of lead,” said the CDC.

As of March 22, 2024, the CDC received the following reports from state and local health departments:

  • Total Cases: 519
    • Confirmed Cases: 136
    • Probable Cases: 345
    • Suspect Cases: 38
  • States: 44 total (AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV).

FDA Transitions Response to Surveillance, Prevention, and Compliance Activities

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on April 16, 2024, that it had transitioned its response to the incident to surveillance, prevention, and compliance activities.

FDA issued the following facts on the recall and health effects of the products in question:

  • Product: Recalled cinnamon apple puree and applesauce products. Information on lot codes and UPCs can be found in the firm's recall announcement.
    • Recalled WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches – including three packs.
    • Recalled Schnucks-brand cinnamon-flavored applesauce pouches and variety packs.
    • Recalled Weis-brand cinnamon applesauce pouches.

These products are off the market and no longer available for sale; however, they have a long shelf life. Consumers should check their pantries and discard any recalled products.

  • Symptoms of Lead Toxicity: Lead is toxic to humans and can affect people of any age or health status. Protecting children from exposure to lead is particularly important because they are more susceptible to lead toxicity. Most children have no obvious immediate symptoms. Parents and caretakers should consult a healthcare provider if they suspect a child may have been exposed to lead.

    Short-term exposure to lead could result in the following symptoms:

    o   Headache

    o   Abdominal pain/colic

    o   Vomiting

    o   Anemia

                   Longer-term exposure could result in the following additional symptoms:

    o   Irritability

    o   Lethargy

    o   Fatigue

    o   Muscle aches or muscle prickling/burning

    o   Constipation

    o   Difficulty concentrating/muscular weakness

    o   Tremor

    o   Weight loss

  • Stores Affected
    • WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches are sold nationally and have been available through multiple retailers, including Amazon, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar/Dollar Tree combination stores, and other online outlets.
    • Schnucks-brand cinnamon-flavored applesauce pouches and variety packs are sold at Schnucks and Eatwell Markets grocery stores.
    • Weis-brand cinnamon applesauce pouches are sold at Weis grocery stores.

What Can Parents and Caregivers Do?

The FDA recommends the following action for parents, caregivers, and others:

o   Consumers should not eat, sell, or serve recalled WanaBana, Schnucks, or Weis-brand apple cinnamon pouches and should discard them.


o   These products have a long shelf life. Consumers should check their homes and discard these products.


o   To properly discard the product, consumers and retailers should carefully open the pouch and empty the content into a trash can before discarding the packaging to prevent others from salvaging recalled product from the trash. Clean up any spills after discarding the product then wash your hands.


o   Contact your healthcare provider if you think you or your child may have symptoms of lead toxicity after eating recalled fruit pouches.


o   Most children have no obvious immediate symptoms of lead exposure. 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.


o   For clinicians, please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Health Alert Network (HAN) and CDC’s Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity (COCA Now) announcements for guidance on how to best care for patients who were potentially exposed to lead or chromium by consuming recalled products.


Understanding the Health Implications of Chromium

While most consumers may be familiar with lead, they may be less aware of chromium and its health implications.

The CDC says that Chromium is a naturally occurring element with trace levels normally found in the diet.

“The most common forms of chromium found in chromium compounds are trivalent chromium and hexavalent chromium. Chromium is considered an essential nutrient and can be found in a normal diet and in some dietary supplements,” says the CDC. “Chronic, prolonged exposure to chromium in occupational settings through inhalation and skin exposure has also been associated with chronic lung disease and ulceration of skin and mucous membranes. Chromium is a known carcinogen. The exact form of chromium in the recalled applesauce products is unclear. However, lead chromate has previously been reported as a contaminant in spices and foods.”

There is limited information about the health effects of consuming food contaminated with chromium compounds such as lead chromate. The main health problems seen in laboratory animals following ingestion of chromium compounds are irritation and ulcers (in the stomach and small intestine) and anemia.

“The health effects of eating food contaminated with chromium, in the form of lead chromate, are not well understood. Chromium compounds may be converted to chromium in acidic environments. It is difficult to predict the amount of chromium and chromium absorbed from ingestion of contaminated food,” says the CDC. “While the health effects of chromium are difficult to predict in this scenario, we know that there is no safe level of lead. CDC recommends discarding all affected products and not eating any of them. Anyone who may have eaten the affected products should talk with their healthcare provider.”

Tags: Food Recalls, FDA, CDC

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