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FDA Warns Cinnamon Companies: Implement Safety Controls

It’s not just applesauce pouches affected by high lead levels in cinnamon. FDA recommends voluntary recalls to several other cinnamon distributors.

Ground cinnamon
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Late last year, very high levels of lead were found in cinnamon applesauce pouches after dozens of children were poisoned. The ensuing investigation by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) was aimed at discovering whether that poisoning was caused by deliberate additives in the cinnamon flavoring of three different applesauce brands.

   How Lead Levels in Cinnamon Point to Need for Accountability, Incentives

The investigation has not stopped there, and the FDA has now found elevated levels of lead in several brands at six different retail chains. In a letter sent to all cinnamon manufacturers, processors, distributors, and facility operators in the U.S., the FDA’s message was clear: It was a reminder of the requirement to implement controls to prevent contamination from potential chemical hazards in food, including ground cinnamon products.

In an appendix released earlier this year in guidance for industry, the FDA identifies lead as a known or reasonably foreseeable food-related chemical hazard for certain subcategories of spices and herbs, including cinnamon. Lead is known to be a common ingredient for economically motivated adulteration (EMA), giving cinnamon a higher weight, for example, or enhancing its color.

With this in mind, the FDA set out to survey ground cinnamon products from discount retail stores for lead analysis. What they found prompted recommended recalls of ground cinnamon from six different distributors: La Fiesta Food Products, Moran Foods, MTCI, Raja Foods, Greenbriar International, and El Chilar.

   The Food Industry Needs to Do Better

“The lead levels from this targeted survey are significantly lower than those associated with the ongoing investigation into ground cinnamon associated with the apple puree and applesauce recall, and, therefore, do not present the same level of risk to human health,” the FDA said in its letter to cinnamon companies, which detailed lead levels ranging from 2.03 to 3.4 ppm. “In contrast, lead levels in the cinnamon samples associated with the applesauce recall were between 2,270 ppm to 5,110 ppm.”

Nonetheless, the FDA recommended the voluntary recalls because prolonged exposure to the products could be unsafe. Consumers have been advised to avoid buying cinnamon under the brand names La Fiesta, Marcum, MK, Swad, Supreme Tradition, and El Chilar, and to throw away those they already have. Recall notices have been issued for four of the six brands, including Marcum, Swad, Supreme Tradition, and El Chilar.

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