Why the FDA Is Screening Cinnamon Imports for Lead

FDA Headquarters - White Oak Campus

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating cinnamon apple puree and applesauce products amid reports of elevated blood lead levels in at least 34 individuals. 

Residents in more than 20 states have reported illness after exposure to cinnamon apple products offered by three brands: WanaBana, Weis, and Schnucks. The goods are manufactured in Ecuador and have since been recalled. 

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Recent screens by the FDA and other state partners found lead levels in at least one product nearly 200 times greater than those in FDA guidelines.

“FDA’s leading hypothesis is that cinnamon used in these recalled pouches is the likely source of contamination for these products; however, the FDA has not yet been able to collect and test samples of the cinnamon used in the recalled products,” an FDA press release from Nov. 16 said. “The FDA is continuing to work with Ecuadorian authorities to investigate the source of the cinnamon.” Authorities are also reviewing cinnamon from other countries to check for lead contamination as a precaution.

“WanaBana USA has initiated a voluntary recall of all batches and is working closely with the FDA to investigate the source of the contamination. The company is committed to ensuring the safety of its products and the well-being of its consumers,” WanaBana said on Nov. 9. “WanaBana USA is working to investigate the source of the contamination and is collaborating with the FDA in updating consumers with information related to this product recall.”

The FDA has also sampled other products by the three brands under investigation, but said the puree pouches that did not contain cinnamon haven’t shown higher levels of lead, and were not part of the recall.

Lead exposure can cause headaches, stomach cramps, constipation, muscle/joint pain, poor sleep, and other issues in adults, but the FDA warned that most children do not have any obvious symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that children are more vulnerable to lead toxicity because they tend to absorb it more than adults.

Elevated levels of lead affect the central nervous system and can cause cognitive and behavioral deficits.

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Contributor: Solcyre Burga