Federal officials continue to receive reports of children with elevated levels of lead in their blood. An international investigation of cinnamon in applesauce products is ongoing.

As of Dec. 6 the Food and Drug Administration had received reports of 64 “adverse events” in children aged 6 and younger. The children are spread across 27 states. 

Three applesauce products have been recalled: Wanabana brand applesauce pouches sold nationwide and online and Schnuck’s and Weis brands of pouches sold regionally at those grocery store chains. The Schnucks brand of pouches were sold individually and in variety packs.

The Wanabana recall impacts markets outside of the United States. Customer information provided by the firm shows that product was also distributed to Cuba and the United Arab Emirates.

The FDA investigation has found that cinnamon from Ecuador was used in the production of the implicated applesauce products.

“The FDA is continuing to coordinate with Ecuadorian authorities on the investigation of the source of elevated lead levels in cinnamon apple pouches. In addition, the Ecuadorian authorities report that Negasmart’s cinnamon had higher levels of lead than allowed by Ecuador and that Negasmart, the supplier of cinnamon to Austrofoods, is currently under an Ecuadorian administrative sanctions process to determine the responsible party for the contamination,” according to the FDA’s outbreak update.

An import alert on cinnamon products from Ecuador has been initiated by the FDA and is blocking the entry of such products at U.S. ports of entry.

The FDA’s investigation began after public health officials noticed and reported children with elevated blood levels of lead. Those public health officials found all of the children had consumed applesauce that was later recalled. 

Federal testing showed that the recalled applesauce contained 200 times the amount of lead considered safe to consume. Elevated levels of lead have been reported as much as three months after children ate the applesauce.

Lead is toxic to humans and can affect people of any age or health status, but children are particularly susceptible to lead toxicity. Lead poisoning can result in several long-term problems, including developmental disorders and brain damage.

“These products have a long shelf life. Consumers should check their homes and discard these products. Most children have no obvious immediate symptoms of lead exposure,” according to the FDA. “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.”

Short-term exposure to lead can result in the following symptoms: headache, abdominal pain, colic, vomiting, and anemia. Longer-term exposure could result in additional symptoms: irritability, lethargy, fatigue, muscle aches or muscle prickling/burning, constipation, difficulty concentrating, muscular weakness, tremors and weight loss.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News,click here)