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Consumer Reports Slams Lunch Kits for Lead and Sodium

April 15, 2024
Kraft Heinz Lunchables were at the top of the hit list, but Armour LunchMakers, Target’s Good & Gather, Greenfield Natural Meat Co. and Oscar Mayer all tested high.

Consumer Reports continued to take the food industry to task, last week reporting Lunchables — Kraft Heinz’s prepackaged boxes of deli meat, cheese and crackers — contain troubling levels of lead and sodium. As a result, CR asked USDA to remove them from approved school lunch programs.

In addition to the Kraft Heinz product, a handful of similar lunch and snack kits were tested by the consumer advocacy group. Three Lunchables were at the top of the list for lead and placed high in sodium content, too: Turkey and Cheddar Cracker Stackers had 74% of California’s maximum allowable dose level of lead and 49% of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommendation for sodium; Pizza With Pepperoni had 73% lead and 45% sodium; and Extra Cheesy Pizza had 69% lead and 34% sodium.

Smithfield Foods’ Armour LunchMakers in Cracker Crunchers Ham & American was fourth with 67% lead and 35% sodium. Target’s Good & Gather product in Uncured Ham and Cheddar Cheese had 57% lead and 33% sodium.

Two Oscar Mayer P3 kits, both with turkey, were at the bottom of the list, with 7-10% of the limit for lead and 31-36% of sodium.

"There's a lot to be concerned about in these kits," said Amy Keating, a registered dietitian at CR. "They're highly processed, and regularly eating processed meat, a main ingredient in many of these products, has been linked to increased risk of some cancers."

None of the kits exceeded legal or regulatory limits, Consumer Reports noted, but five of 12 tested products would expose consumers to 50% or more of California's maximum allowable amount of lead, or cadmium heavy metals that can cause developmental and other problems in kids.

“Two Lunchables kits made specifically for schools are eligible to be served to children through the National School Lunch Program,” the Consumer Reports website said. At the bottom of that web page, it added a petition to USDA: “We urge you to remove Lunchables processed food kits from the National School Lunch Program and give our nation’s school children healthier food choices.”

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.

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