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FDA, Ecuadorian Officials Pinpoint Likely Source of Lead Contaminated Cinnamon

Feb. 8, 2024
Carlos Aguilera of Ecuador processed ground cinnamon for Negasmart, which was supplied to Austrofoods and then used as an ingredient in recalled applesauce pouches in the U.S.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced that Ecuadorian officials appear to have identified the source of lead-contaminated cinnamon that was used in recalled applesauce pouches sold in the U.S. that sickened more than 400 people thus far.

Official in Ecuador’s Agencia Nacional de Regulación, Control y Vigilancia Sanitaria (ARCSA) report that ground cinnamon processor Carlos Aguilera is the likely source of the contamination and is not in operation at this time. The unprocessed cinnamon sticks were sourced from Sri Lanka, sampled by ARCSA and found to have no lead contamination. The ARCSA investigation is still ongoing.

The FDA noted that it cannot take direct action with Carlos Aguilera or Negasmart, the company that eventually supplied the cinnamon to processor Austrofoods, because it has limited authority over foreign ingredient suppliers that do not directly ship product to the U.S. FDA also noted that it does not believe the contamination issue extends beyond the products that have been recalled to this point and does not have any confirmed reports of illnesses or elevated blood lead level adverse events reported for any other cinnamon-containing products, or cinnamon itself.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Center for Environmental Health continues to conduct case-finding efforts, and reports that as of Feb. 2, 2024, it has received reports of 100 confirmed cases, 277 probable cases and 36 suspected cases, from 43 different states. CDC considers anyone with a blood lead level of 3.5 µg/dL or higher measured within three months after consuming a recalled WanaBana, Schnucks, or Weis brand fruit puree product after November 2022 to be a case.

About the Author

Andy Hanacek | Senior Editor

Andy Hanacek has covered meat, poultry, bakery and snack foods as a B2B editor for nearly 20 years, and has toured hundreds of processing plants and food companies, sharing stories of innovation and technological advancement throughout the food supply chain. In 2018, he won a Folio:Eddie Award for his unique "From the Editor's Desk" video blogs, and he has brought home additional awards from Folio and ASBPE over the years. In addition, Hanacek led the Meat Industry Hall of Fame for several years and was vice president of communications for We R Food Safety, a food safety software and consulting company.

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