Recalled applesauce bags now linked to more than 200 cases of lead poisoning in 33 states, CDC says


Health authorities are now investigating at least 205 cases of lead poisoning in 33 different states linked to contaminated applesauce, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday. That's up from 125 cases in the agency's last weekly report. account.

The growing number of cases comes as the Food and Drug Administration continues its investigation into the source of the tainted cinnamon blamed for the contamination. The FDA has faced “limited jurisdiction” in Ecuador, where it says it cannot take “direct action” to investigate some of those suspected of being behind the poisonings.

State health departments reporting cases to the CDC now also include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, along with more than 20 other states that previously reported cases.

It is unclear how many cases have been reported in each state. A CDC spokesperson said the agency had decided to withhold state-specific counts, citing patient privacy.

Federal officials have urged state health departments to look for cases of lead poisoning, which could go undetected if people who ate lead-contaminated applesauce do not become infected. blood test from your doctor for the toxic heavy metal.

Most previously reported The cases have been in young children. who especially vulnerable to developmental problems caused by lead poisoning. Some young children had been consuming the bags several times a day, according to first reports released so far by the FDA in response to a records request by CBS News.

The average age of current cases in the CDC investigation “is almost two years old,” an agency spokesperson said, although there have been reports of children as young as nine years old.

“It is important for parents to contact their healthcare provider to obtain a blood test for lead if you or your children may have consumed recalled products, regardless of age,” the spokesperson said in an email.

AustroFood, maker of the now-recalled WanaBana, Weis and Schnucks brand cinnamon-flavored applesauce pouches, said Monday will reimburse customers up to $150 for lead testing.

Applesauce packages recalled
WanaBana Cinnamon Applesauce Pouches, Schnucks Brand Cinnamon Applesauce Pouches and Variety Packs, and Weis Brand Cinnamon Applesauce Pouches were recalled due to high levels of lead. FDA/AP

Officials have also fought for take bags off store shelvesafter initial withdrawal By the end of october.

The FDA has continued to receive reports about the bags in Dollar Tree stores for weeks, prompting a joint effort with state and local health authorities to probe locations where lead-contaminated bags are still displayed on shelves.

“As of December 19, the FDA also received a report indicating that the recalled WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Puree product (including three recalled packages) is on shelves at combined Family Dollar/Dollar Tree stores. This product should not be available for sale and consumers should not purchase it. product,” the agency saying in an update on Tuesday.

A theory: “Adulteration for economic reasons”

Tests by FDA investigators at the AustroFood plant in Ecuador found that cinnamon that had been added to bags of applesauce was contaminated with “extremely high” concentrations (up to 5,110 parts per million) of lead.

That's thousands of times more than what experts generally consider to be the maximum safe level of lead in spices, the FDA says.

A congressional report calling for cracking down on dangerous levels of lead in baby foods had raised concerns about the concentrations. in a fraction of that size.

One theory the FDA has been exploring is whether the cinnamon was contaminated as a result of “adulteration for economic reasons“an agency spokesperson said. Economic adulteration is when a person or company swaps ingredients or adds fillers to make a product more profitable; the FDA also refers to this as “food fraud.” An agency spokesperson The agency declined to identify what other theories investigators have been pursuing.

In the past, other spices such as turmeric Vendors linked to lead poisoning are suspected of being contaminated by vendors attempting to enhance their weight and color.

It is suspected that the contaminated cinnamon was supplied through a distributor in Ecuador called Negasmart, coming from a mill in the country that is now closed.

But beyond AustroFood's own factory, the FDA says it “still relies on officials in Ecuador to support the investigation into Negasmart,” given that it did not directly ship its products to the US.

“We trust what Ecuador is giving us. They've had a leadership change recently and it's taking us a little while to get that information,” an FDA official said Friday in a call with state and local authorities. health authorities.

The official said the FDA had been waiting for responses from Ecuador's regulatory authorities to track down the contaminated cinnamon. The Ecuadorian counterpart of the FDA, the National Agency for Health Regulation, Control and Surveillance or ARCSA, swore a new director on December 6.

Meanwhile, more than a hundred other food samples tested by the FDA and state authorities for lead tested negative, the FDA says. Samples that tested negative include other non-cinnamon flavors of WanaBana that ARCSA had initially claimed It could also be contaminated.

AustroFood was the only Negasmart customer that exported food to the US, according to the FDA. No other cinnamon imports examined by the FDA have been found to have elevated levels of lead.

Tests conducted by other cinnamon importers in Ecuador “do not appear to be contaminated with lead,” the FDA had told ARCSA.

“We continue to work closely with Ecuadorian officials as they conduct their own rapidly evolving investigations into the source of contamination,” the FDA said.

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