from FDA release 12/18/23

FDA Finds Chromium in Addition to Lead in Recalled Applesauce Pouches

Jan. 10, 2024
Agency is uncertain if the levels of chromium are dangerous.

Not only lead but chromium has been found in the foreign-manufactured cinnamon-applesauce pouches that were recalled in late 2023.

“After additional analysis of both recalled cinnamon apple products and the cinnamon collected from the manufacturer in Ecuador, FDA has determined that, in addition to lead, the cinnamon and recalled products also contained a high level of chromium,” the agency wrote on Jan. 5.

“The level of chromium detected in the two samples of cinnamon yielded 1,201 and 531 parts per million (ppm). Because of the limited amount of cinnamon used in the finished product, the level of chromium detected in the reanalysis of FDA samples of the recalled WanaBana Cinnamon Apple Puree product yielded 0.590 and 0.566 ppm.”

Pouches of children’s applesauce under the Weis, WanaBana and Schnucks brands were found to contain dangerously high levels of lead. All were made at Austrofoods, a food processor in Ecuador, but the FDA quickly focused on lead in the cinnamon, which came from Negasmart, an ingredient supplier also in Ecuador.

The FDA subsequently reported the cinnamon may have been intentionally adulterated to inflate its cost.

Recalls began on Oct. 31, 2023. As of Dec. 29, 2023, the Centers for Disease Control had received reports of 80 confirmed cases, 187 probable cases and 20 suspected cases for a total of 287 cases from 37 different states.

Chromium is a naturally occurring element, the agency says, and an essential trace nutrient in the diet that exists predominantly in two forms, chromium (III) and chromium (VI). Chromium (VI) is more toxic than chromium (III). “Due to limitations in available testing methods, FDA was not able to definitively determine the form of chromium in the cinnamon apple puree sample (i.e., whether the chromium present is chromium (III) or chromium (VI)).

“The lead-to-chromium ratio in the cinnamon apple puree sample is consistent with that of lead chromate (PbCrO4) (which contains chromium (VI)), but this is not a definitive indicator that lead chromate or chromium (VI) (the more toxic form of chromium) was present. Information on the health effects of eating food contaminated with chromium (VI) are limited.

“FDA also conducted testing for arsenic and cadmium, but those elements were not detected above trace levels in the cinnamon collected from the Austrofoods facility in Ecuador or in the recalled product,” the agency said. “As part of this investigation, some state partners also conducted testing for toxic elements and only detected elevated levels of lead and chromium.

“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.”

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.