Senator Rick Scott Calls for FDA Investigation into Possible Chinese Source of Lead-Contaminated Cinnamon

Senator Rick Scott has called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct an investigation into the sourcing of cinnamon used in recently recalled products, following reports of elevated lead levels found in cinnamon applesauce pouches.

As of Dec. 5, a total of 64 children under the age of 6 in the United States tested positive for lead poisoning after consuming apple puree pouches that were recently recalled due to lead contamination, according to the FDA.

The recalled food products were marketed to parents and children under the brands WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit puree and Schnucks- and Weis-branded cinnamon applesauce pouches.

“It appears that the high lead levels were associated with the cinnamon in this product, and not the applesauce,” Scott stated in a letter addressed to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on Dec. 15.

“It also appears that the company that was selling these fruit pouches was sourcing cinnamon from an Ecuadorian supplier that may have been purchasing cinnamon from Asian countries, such as Communist China.”

Scott explained that high lead levels in spices, such as cinnamon, could be the result of “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.”

He noted that the FDA was investigating the cinnamon contamination “as a case of potential economic adulteration”—which occurs when someone adds a substance to a food to make it appear better or of greater value.

“This is a serious issue because it demonstrates the vulnerability of the U.S. supply chain,” Scott remarked.

The senator said that “Communist China has been known to engage in economically motivated adulteration such as adding melamine (a chemical used in plastics) to infant formula which led to kidney failure in babies and at least six deaths.”

Scott recalled a 2008 case in which 81 people in the United States died as a result of the use of counterfeit precursor chemicals in the manufacturing of heparin, an anticoagulant, in a non-sterile environment by some Chinese companies.

In his letter, Scott provided the FDA with a set of questions, including one regarding the agency’s policies on the prevention of heavy metal contamination in common herbs and spices, and whether it was investigating the sourcing of cinnamon used in the recalled products.

“Is the FDA concerned that one of the largest producers of cinnamon is Communist China which has a history of deception and failing to take responsibility for their economically adulterated products?” he asked.

“I look forward to your prompt response so that the youngest and most vulnerable among us have access to the nutrition that they need. I urge the FDA to take swift and decisive actions to solve this important issue.”

FDA Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods Jim Jones said on Dec. 14 that the agency is still investigating the matter, “but so far all of the signals we’re getting lead to an intentional act on the part of someone in the supply chain and we’re trying to sort of figure that out.”

“My instinct is they didn’t think this product was going to end up in a country with a robust regulatory process,” Jones said in an interview with Politico.

“They thought it was going to end up in places that did not have the ability to detect something like this,” he added.

The FDA said that its officials have initiated an onsite inspection at a facility located in Ecuador that produces the cinnamon apple pouches and that ingredient sample collection is underway.

Lead is toxic to humans and exposure at any age or health status can lead to serious symptoms. In adults, high blood lead levels can increase their risk for high blood pressure, other cardiovascular effects, kidney problems, adverse reproductive outcomes, and gout.

Although most children with lead exposure have no obvious immediate symptoms, parents and caretakers should consult a health care professional if they suspect a child may have been exposed to lead, according to the FDA.

Short-term exposure to lead could result in headaches, abdominal pain/colic, vomiting, and anemia, while longer-term exposure could result in irritability, lethargy, fatigue, muscle aches or muscle prickling/burning, constipation, difficulty concentrating/muscular weakness, tremor, and weight loss.

Share:

Related News