Baby Food Pouches Recalled Over Lead Contamination, What to Know

A baby in a pink high chair looks at the camera.
Multiple types of baby food pouches are being voluntarily recalled. SanyaSM/Getty Images
  • The FDA is investigating three companies issuing voluntary recalls of apple cinnamon baby food pouches due to elevated levels of lead.
  • The federal investigation follows multiple reports of lead poisoning among young children in a handful of states. 
  • Heavy metals like lead are found in many foods, but toxicity from lead exposure can build up over time.
  • Consumers can protect themselves by avoiding the recalled baby food pouches and taking precautions to minimize lead exposure from other foods.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating three companies manufacturing apple cinnamon baby food pouches after several reports of lead poisoning affecting young children in at least five states.

The products at the center of the voluntary product recall include:

  • WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches (available at most retailers, including Amazon)
  • Schnucks cinnamon-flavored applesauce pouches and variety pack (sold at Schnucks and Eatwell Markets grocery stores)
  • Weis brand cinnamon applesauce pouches (sold at Weis grocery stores)

In North Carolina, where the FDA’s investigation began, four cases of acute lead toxicity were reported in children. State health officials urged caution to not buy or feed WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches to toddlers and young children due to potentially elevated levels of lead.

“WanaBana USA has initiated a voluntary recall of the affected batches and is working closely with the FDA to investigate the source of the contamination,” the company said in a statement posted by the FDA. “The company is committed to ensuring the safety of its products and the well-being of its consumers.”

Officials at Schnucks said their supplier reported higher than normal lead levels in cinnamon.

“Consumers who have purchased this product are urged to stop using it immediately. Affected products may be returned to the Schnucks or Eatwell Market store of purchase for a full refund. Customers with questions may contact the Schnucks Customer Care team at 314-994-4400 or 1-800-264-4400,” the company said in a statement.

Healthline has reached out to Weis for further comment but has not immediately received a reply.

The FDA advises consumers to not eat sell or serve the recalled products, since all lot codes and expiration dates are included in the recalls. The agency is working to pinpoint the source of the contamination, which is likely linked to high amounts of lead in raw cinnamon material used by the products’ manufacturers. 

Lead poisoning can affect anyone regardless of age and health status. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself.

How does lead get into cinnamon?

Contaminants like lead can get into foods during the manufacturing process. Some spices, such as cinnamon, have been found to harbor heavy metals like lead.

In 2021, Consumer Reports tested 126 common herbs and spices and found that many common products contained arsenic, cadmium, and lead. A 2018 review notes that lead can contaminate spices at various points in the global supply chain.

Food scientist Bryan Quoc Le, PhD, a faculty research fellow at Pacific Lutheran University and author of “150 Food Science Questions Answered,” explained to Healthline:

“Contaminants may come in through ingredients that have been previously contaminated during harvesting and processing, water used in the production process, process piping that may contain heavy metals in the alloy or accidental incorporation of metal filings or shards into vats and production lines from workers during repairs or reconstruction.”

Lead exposure symptoms

Lead exposure is usually minimal and toxicity builds up over time. This means most children exposed to lead may not experience symptoms at the immediate onset.

Trista Best, MPH, a registered dietitian and Environmental Health Specialist with Balance One Supplements, told Healthline that lead poisoning can present with various symptoms and signs. These may include:

  • decreased appetite
  • irritability
  • fatigue
  • poor sleep
  • headaches
  • loss of concentration or focus
  • abdominal pain or cramping
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • weight loss

More severe cases of lead poisoning and toxicity in children may lead to learning difficulties and developmental delays, Best said. 

“High lead levels can affect an infant’s cognitive and physical development, potentially resulting in speech and language delays, as well as behavioral problems,” Best said. 

“Additionally, lead exposure can cause anemia, which may lead to paleness, fatigue, and weakness in affected infants. It’s important to note that symptoms of lead poisoning can be subtle, making it challenging to diagnose.”

What should you do if you suspect lead poisoning?

If you believe your child has been exposed to lead in their food, you should contact a healthcare professional. Your doctor or pediatrician may administer a blood test to check for lead exposure.

If lead toxicity is determined, your doctor may advise a protocol to remove lead from the body or reduce further exposure. In severe cases, your doctor may recommend chelation therapy, a treatment that binds to lead that has built up in the body.

“Regular check-ups and monitoring for lead exposure in infants, especially those who have ingested contaminated baby food, are essential to ensure early detection and intervention to mitigate potential long-term health effects,” Best advised.

How to avoid lead in food

The FDA advises consumers to avoid purchasing apple cinnamon baby food pouches, but trace amounts of lead can still be found in many foods.

You can reduce the potential for lead exposure from other foods by washing fruits, vegetables, and grains thoroughly. 

Be sure to get enough calcium in your diet, which research suggests may help prevent lead from being absorbed by your body.

Takeaway

The FDA is investigating three companies selling apple cinnamon puree baby food pouches after reports of acute lead toxicity in children.

Consumers are advised to avoid the recalled products until the FDA’s investigation is complete.

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