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FDA screening cinnamon imports for lead after applesauce pouch recall

Authorities are screening imported cinnamon for possible lead contamination after cinnamon applesauce pouches sold under three brand names sickened nearly three dozen young children.

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The recall, issued last month and later expanded, includes all WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree Pouches. The cinnamon applesauce was also sold under the Schnucks and Weis brands.

Anyone who has bought the affected purees has been advised not to eat the applesauce and to instead return the pouches for a full refund.

The Food and Drug Administration said 34 illnesses believed to be linked to the contaminated applesauce have been reported as of Thursday.

Officials have continued to test fruit purees for contamination and said they recently found extremely high levels of lead in a sample of WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Puree from Dollar Tree.

“The level detected in the FDA sample of WanaBana apple cinnamon puree is 2.18 parts per million (ppm), which, for context, is more than 200 times greater than the action level the FDA has proposed in draft guidance for fruit purees and similar products intended for babies and young children,” according to authorities.

Regulators added that other fruit puree pouches sold under the WanaBana, Weis and Schnucks brand names that have not been recalled “have not shown elevated levels of lead.”

The FDA believes that issues with the applesauce packets stem from the cinnamon used, though officials highlighted that the agency “has not yet been able to collect and test samples of the cinnamon used in the recalled products.”

“At this time, (the) FDA has no indication that this issue extends beyond these recalled products, but to further protect public health, (the) FDA is screening incoming shipments of cinnamon from multiple countries for lead contamination,” authorities said.

The affected cinnamon applesauce pouches were manufactured in Ecuador, according to the FDA. Officials continue working to determine where the cinnamon used in the packages came from.

No other incidents of elevated blood lead levels have been reported in connection with other cinnamon products or with the spice itself.

Illnesses believed to be linked to the applesauce recall have been reported in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington.