Usually, an elected official charges before the evidence is in, and the bureaucrat provides an open-ended background about the food safety problem.
But with the lead poisoning of applesauce pouches sold for children, those roles seem to have switched. Jim Jones, FDA’s new Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods, has raised the possibility that the applesauce packages are “purposefully contaminated with lead.”
Jones said the FDA’s investigation continues, but “all the signals we’re getting lead to an intentional act on the part of someone in the supply chain.” That specific supply chain traces back to Ecuador.
Meanwhile, a three-page letter from Sen. Rick Scott, R-FL, to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf raises broader questions about the applesauce contamination, including whether China might be involved.
Higher than normal lead levels — some 500 times greater than acceptable levels for lead — have been found in more than 60 U.S. children younger than age 6. The spiked lead levels came after the children were fed from applesauce pouches sold under one of three brands — Weis, WanaBana, and Schnucks. All three products have been recalled.
All originate from a facility in Ecuador.
Sen. Scott wants the FDA to look at China because it is a large producer of cinnamon, which may be a source of lead poisoning. The Florida Republican said the supply chain is more global now than before the pandemic.
Scott said the FDA’s safety alert was issued on Oct. 28, 2023, and now requires “swift and decisive” actions. He said there are indications that the Ecuadorian supplier “may have been purchasing cinnamon from Asian countries, such as Communist China.”
Scott wrote: “High lead or heavy metal levels in spices, such as cinnamon, typically come from three potential sources: either high levels in the soil the product was grown in, potential contamination in the supply chain during processing, or economically motivated adulteration such as adding lead chromate to increase the product’s weight.”
The Senator said the high lead levels may be “a case of potential economic adulteration.”
Officially, the FDA is investigating several theories for how the high lead levels may have occurred. FDA reportedly has little authority over foreign ingredients not directly shipped to the U.S.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)