FDA Finds Chromium in Lead-Contaminated Applesauce Pouches

Cinnamon applesauce pouches recalled in late October and early November 2023 for high lead content were also found to contain chromium.
FDA Finds Chromium in Lead-Contaminated Applesauce Pouches
Three recalled applesauce products: WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit purée pouches, Schnucks-brand cinnamon-flavored applesauce pouches and variety pack, and Weis-brand cinnamon applesauce pouches. (FDA via AP)
Amie Dahnke
1/8/2024
Updated:
1/8/2024
0:00

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that cinnamon applesauce pouches previously recalled for containing lead may also contain chromium, increasing the risk of illness after consumption.

The applesauce pouches, supplied by Austrofoods, an Ecuadorian distributor, were initially voluntarily recalled in late October 2023 due to allegedly containing lead. The FDA found lead levels that were 2,000 times the allowed safety levels.

On Friday, the FDA said additional testing of the cinnamon and the recalled items collected from the Austrofoods facility led to the detection of chromium. According to the FDA, Negasmart, an Ecuadorian manufacturer, supplied the cinnamon. Negasmart does not ship any products to the United States, the FDA said, limiting the agency’s ability to investigate the company.

“At this time, FDA is still relying on officials in Ecuador to support the investigation into Negasmart,” the FDA wrote.

While the agency has limited authority over foreign ingredient suppliers, it said it is using all available resources to investigate and “protect public health.”

Additionally, the FDA is looking into whether the cinnamon used in the applesauce pouches was used in other products shipped to the United States and other countries.

“People who ate recalled products, especially if they had elevated blood lead levels, may have been exposed to chromium and should inform their healthcare provider so they can monitor health and provide supportive care, as needed,” the FDA said in its Jan. 5 press release.

The recalled applesauce pouches include WanaBana Cinnamon Apple Puree and cinnamon applesauce pouches from Weis and Schnucks brands. Some of the applesauce pouches were still being sold at some Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores as recently as mid-December, the FDA said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received 80 confirmed cases of tainted applesauce exposure from health departments in 37 states since the recalls, as well as 187 probable cases and 20 suspected cases.

The FDA also tested the products and cinnamon for arsenic and cadmium, but nothing above trace levels was detected.

What Is Chromium?

While chromium occurs naturally in the environment and is an essential trace nutrient in the diet, one form of chromium (chromium 6) is more toxic to humans than the others (chromium 3). The FDA noted that it could not determine which form of chromium was found in the cinnamon apple purée tested at the Austrofoods facility. The FDA did report that the lead-to-chromium ratio in the purée was similar to lead chromate, which contains chromium 6, but added that “this is not a definitive indicator that lead chromate or chromium (VI) (the more toxic form of chromium) was present.”
While scientists recognize the health risks of prolonged skin and inhalation exposure to chromium 6, the effects of consuming it are not well understood, the FDA reported. The agency believes symptoms are likely nonspecific and could include the following:
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Anemia.
  • Renal and hepatic dysfunction.
The CDC notes there is no antidote for chromium exposure.
“Medical treatment for chromium exposure is supportive as indicated from the clinical presentation,” the CDC wrote in an update about the exposures. Treatment could include ensuring the proper functioning of the kidneys and liver and that electrolytes are balanced.

What to Do if You’ve Been Exposed

Anyone who has consumed any recalled products should contact their health care provider immediately, especially if they experience any adverse symptoms. It is important to tell your health care provider you may have been exposed to lead and chromium so you can be monitored.
Individuals with symptoms should report an adverse event. The following sources are available in such cases:
Amie Dahnke is a freelance writer and editor residing in California. She has covered community journalism and health care news for nearly a decade, winning a California Newspaper Publishers Award for her work.
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