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After more reports of illnesses from recalled applesauce pouches, FDA is screening cinnamon shipments for lead

By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

(CNN) — After more reports of illnesses potentially linked to lead in recalled fruit and applesauce pouches, the US Food and Drug Administration says that it is screening shipments of cinnamon from multiple countries for possible lead contamination. So far, no illnesses or elevated blood lead levels have been reported for other cinnamon or products containing the popular holiday spice.

There have been 34 reports of illnesses linked to apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches sold under the WanaBanana, Weis and Schnucks brands, the FDA said Friday — a dozen more cases since an update on Monday. Cases have been identified in at least 22 states, and the agency says it’s continuing to evaluate incoming reports of illnesses.

The FDA, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local partners have been investigating reports of high blood lead levels in children who consumed the pouches, which were manufactured in Ecuador. In one product sample of a WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Puree from Dollar Tree, the level detected was 2.18 parts per million, the agency said — more than 200 times greater than the action level FDA had proposed in previous draft guidance for products intended for babies and young children.

“FDA’s leading hypothesis is that cinnamon used in these recalled pouches is the likely source of contamination for these products,” the agency said in its update on Friday, although it hasn’t yet been able to test samples of the cinnamon used in the products.

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

This week, the CDC warned doctors to be on the lookout for children who may have been exposed to lead in the fruit pouches. The pouches were sold at retailers including Amazon, Dollar Tree and Sam’s Club, as well as Schnucks and Weis stores.

Families should not eat or serve the products. They should be thrown away or taken back to the store for a refund, the FDA has said. Caregivers should take any children who may have eaten these products to have blood tests to check for exposure to lead.

Lead is toxic to humans, and there is no safe level. Exposure is not typically apparent right away, but it can cause developmental delays in children. Initial symptoms of lead poisoning may include head, stomach and muscle aches, vomiting, anemia, irritability, fatigue and weight loss.

CNN’s Jen Christensen contributed to this report.

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