FDA Suspects Children's Applesauce Was Intentionally Tainted With Lead Chromate

An ongoing investigation of recalled applesauce pouches that exposed hundreds of children to lead has indicated that the contamination was likely intentional. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) linked the lead to cinnamon used to flavor the applesauce. According to the agency, Ecuadorian officials named the cinnamon processor, Carlos Aguilera, as the probable source.

Initial reports of lead toxicity symptoms in children who consumed the cinnamon-flavored applesauce prompted a voluntary recall of Wanabana labeled product announced by the FDA in October of 2023. The recall was expanded to include Schnucks and Weis branded applesauce in November. The FDA also announced that applesauce had high levels of the trace element chromium.

Further testing has revealed the presence of lead chromate (which contains both lead and chromium). In the past, this substance has been used unlawfully to make spices more valuable by adding weight and improving their color. The FDA suspects the cinnamon used in the applesauce may have also been tampered with for monetary gain.

Tainted spice products fell through testing cracks

Lead chromate is a highly toxic yellow-orange pigment used as a colorant in some paints, plastics, rubber, and other products. Unfortunately, it has been used to alter food products illegally, too. Some cases of lead poisoning have been traced to lead chromate-contaminated paprika or turmeric in the United States, Hungary, Bangladesh, and India. The FDA requires companies to adopt measures that mitigate potential hazards in food manufacturing. However, in the case of the cinnamon applesauce, CBS News discovered that Austrofoods, the manufacturer of the packets, did not check for lead contamination.

There is no safe level of lead ingestion, which is particularly a concern for the developing brains of young children. The FDA promised to crack down on levels of lead contaminants in baby food. Sadly, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that over 400 young children in 44 states were exposed to the toxic metal in the tainted applesauce.