A growing number of cases of lead poisoning have been linked to recalled cinnamon applesauce products across multiple states, according to recent updates from the FDA and CDC. Over 30 illnesses have been reported so far, prompting expanded recalls and warnings as authorities investigate the source of the contamination.
Recall Expands as Cases Rise
The original recall was issued on December 30th by the company Austrofoods after testing showed some applesauce pouch products contained high lead levels. The recall initially covered specific lots of applesauce pouches under brand names including Schnucks and Weis, but has since been expanded multiple times.
According to updates from the FDA, recent testing also found the presence of chromium in the affected applesauce pouches. Authorities believe the contamination originated from cinnamon ingredient that was provided by the company Negasmart and used in the production of the applesauce.
|At least 10 cases of lead poisoning reported from recalled applesauce
|Recall expanded to include more products and retailers
|Cases rise to 31, chromium also found in products
Despite multiple alerts and an ongoing investigation, authorities have been frustrated to still find recalled products lingering on store shelves nearly two weeks after the first recall announcement. This delay has likely contributed to the growing number of poisoning cases being reported.
Lead Poisoning Cases Reported Across 10 States
As of January 5th, the latest tally from the CDC includes at least 31 cases of lead poisoning linked to the tainted applesauce products across 10 states. The states reporting illnesses so far are:
- Missouri (10 cases)
- Texas (5 cases)
- Florida (4 cases)
- New York (3 cases)
- Georgia (2 cases)
- Illinois (2 cases)
- Ohio (2 cases)
- Tennessee (1 case)
- Wisconsin (1 case)
- North Carolina (1 case)
Officials expect the case count to continue rising as the investigation and recall efforts expand. About half of the cases so far have involved young children, who are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning since their brains and bodies are still developing.
Symptoms and Dangers of Lead Poisoning
Lead is an extremely toxic heavy metal, and even small amounts can cause poisoning if ingested. Lead poisoning has serious health effects, especially for children, including:
- Brain and nervous system damage
- Slowed growth and development
- Learning and behavior problems
- Hearing and speech problems
Symptoms usually don’t appear until dangerous lead levels have built up in the body, and they can include abdominal pain, vomiting, fatigue, irritability, seizures, and more.
Blood lead level tests are needed to confirm poisoning. Authorities urge anyone who has eaten the recalled applesauce and experiences concerning symptoms to seek medical attention immediately. Treatment is available to help eliminate lead from the body.
Lawsuits Filed as Outrage Mounts
Many consumers have reacted with shock and outrage as the details of this recall continue to unfold. At least two lawsuits have already been filed against Austrofoods by families impacted by the lead poisoning illnesses.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs allege that the company acted negligently by allowing toxic levels of lead in their food products, failing to adequately test ingredients, and delaying the recall despite clear evidence that a recall was warranted.
The lawsuits seek compensation for medical costs as well as punitive damages over what the plaintiffs claim was “reckless disregard for human health and safety”. Legal experts say it’s likely more civil suits will follow from other victims as well.
Ongoing Investigation Into Source of Contamination
Detecting lead contamination early in the supply chain should have prevented this situation. Authorities are working urgently to understand what checks and balances failed for such high levels of lead to make it into a finished consumer product.
The FDA has investigators at the Austrofoods facility inspecting records and processes. They also plan to scrutinize the cinnamon supplier, Negasmart, which remains the suspected root cause of the applesauce contamination.
Depending on the findings of the investigation, Austrofoods and potentially Negasmart could face harsh legal repercussions including criminal charges if evidence of negligence or wrongdoing comes to light.
Long Term Impacts Remain Concerning
Although the recall has now been widely publicized, health experts warn that the impacts could last much longer given how much time passed before some products were pulled from shelves. There may be consumers who are unaware of the recalls and will continue eating the contaminated applesauce – putting them at risk of lead poisoning.
There is also worry about longer term effects for those exposed, especially children. The 31 official cases so far represent what is likely only a fraction of the true number poisoned. Lead can cause permanent neurological damage, the extent of which may not be clear for years as affected kids grow up.
Authorities are advising all consumers to check any applesauce products in their home against recall lists and dispose of them properly. Schools and daycares with recalled products are also being urged to destroy them and notify parents.
With the number of confirmed illnesses already significantly higher than is typical for a food poisoning outbreak, it is clear this event will have an alarming – and potentially long-lasting – public health impact. Officials have their work cut out for them in investigating what led to the contamination issues and holding the responsible parties accountable.
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