Lead-tainted applesauce brands spark mass recall

Three applesauce brands marketed to children are being recalled after reports of lead-related illnesses. Lead is toxic and can have severely adverse effects on children.

Child sucking on an applesauce pouch

Photo credit: Anaphotography

What brands of applesauce have been recalled for lead levels?

The brands include:

  • Schnucks cinnamon-flavored applesauce pouches (sold in Schnucks and Eatwell Market grocery stores)
  • Weis cinnamon applesauce pouches (sold in Weis grocery stores)
  • WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches (sold at retailers across the nation)

How were the high lead levels discovered?

Across five states, at least seven children have reported illnesses, and the common thread was consumption of applesauce pouches, which were tested. Toxic levels of lead were present in the applesauce, and the children had elevated blood levels of lead, which indicated acute lead toxicity.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recalled the WanaBana products on October 28, and the recall expanded on November 5 to encompass Weis and Schnucks brands as well. In trying to identify the source of the lead contamination, Schucks Markets of St. Louis said that its supplier, Purcell International, notified the company of elevated levels of lead found in the cinnamon raw material used by manufacturer Austrofood SAS.

Black child laying on couch with his mom feeling his forehead

What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?

There are a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Muscle aches
  • Muscle fatigue
  • A prickly or burning sensation in the muscles
  • Abdominal pain
  • If a small child, the abdominal discomfort presents as colic
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Tremor

What do I do if I suspect lead poisoning?

For severe symptoms, such as seizures or vomiting, call 911 immediately. For other symptoms, call your local poison control center. The National Poison Help Hotline can connect you to poisoning experts, at 800-222-1222. The calls are free and confidential, and the service is available to callers 24/7.

Only severe cases of lead poisoning will have consumers going to the emergency room.  But should the poisoning be severe, here is what you can expect at the emergency room:

  • A blood lead test: Over 10/mcg/dL is a definite concern, and any level between 2-10 should be discussed with your healthcare provider

Other lab tests may include:

  • Bone marrow biopsy: Removing a sample of bone marrow
  • Complete blood count: CBC
  • Coagulation study: Testing the ability of your blood to clot
  • Free erythrocyte protoporphyrin levels: A type of protein in red blood cells
  • Lead levels
  • X-ray of the long bones and abdomen

Most adults with mildly high lead levels will often recover without problems. However, in children, even mild lead poisoning can have a permanent impact.

child being tutored by adult

Lead exposure and children

Children are much more susceptible to long-term or even permanent negative effects. In fact, childrens’ sensitivities are so acute that no safe blood level in children has been identified. These long-term and permanent effects may include:

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system
  • Slowed growth and development
  • Learning and behavior problems
  • Hearing and speech problems

Where does lead come from?

Lead is a metal that is present naturally in the earth’s crust, and can be found in all soils. Most of our exposure to lead comes from breathing in fossil fuels, such as leaded gasoline. In the past, lead was used in paint, which may still be present in older homes built prior to 1978.

Are Virginia retailers liable if they sell recalled products?

Products liability laws are relatively complex, considering the many steps and handlers who have managed the end product. Per Virginia law, designers, manufacturers, and sellers of defective products may be liable for any damages suffered by a consumer. This law applies to contaminated food products.

Many entities carry the responsibility for creating a safe product. The manufacturers aren’t required to create products that are the ultimate in safety, exceeding every safety measure. But they are required to be “reasonably safe.” Consumers are required to notify sellers of any contamination or defects with the product they purchased, and within a reasonable time frame.

Therefore, if you or a loved one experienced lead poisoning by consuming one of the applesauce products, it’s not only important to see a doctor immediately, but it’s imperative to notify the seller. If you were harmed by consuming this applesauce product, but were not the person who purchased it, you are not obligated to notify the seller. However, it is in everyone’s best interest to notify everyone who may have consumed the product, so that the seller is made aware. Hiring a foodborne illness or products liability attorney will help you understand the nuances of these types of cases.

Michaelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel

Photo credit: Peter Jackson Giclee Print

Famous cases of lead poisoning

Flint, Michigan: This infamous case made world headlines when about 99,000 residents were exposed to unhealthy levels of lead in their drinking water. Unfortunately, this issue has been found in other towns in Wisconsin, Maryland, and the whole of Chicago.

Beethoven: New tests (taken from hair samples and skull fragments) revealed that Beethoven suffered lead poisoning throughout his life. Experts surmise that since he was a wine lover, and wine at that time contained heavy lead levels, it may have been the source of his illnesses.

Michaelangelo and VanGogh: These famous painters were known to have suffered “painter’s colic,” which included stomach pains, and a “touch of madness.” Those who painted regularly at the time were exposed to high lead levels present in pigments, and suffered from tooth decay, melancholy, partial paralysis, gout, and paleness – all of which are linked to chronic lead poisoning.

Why is it best to hire an attorney with this case?

Product liability and foodborne illness cases are extraordinarily complex. Given the multiple entities that the materials have gone through to create the final product, many avenues must be investigated. There are scientific and technical matters that experienced attorneys are familiar with, and they will look closely at the manufacturing process, suppliers, contracts, and much more.

If you or a loved one have suffered lead poisoning from consuming this applesauce product, or have suffered from a foodborne illness through the negligence of another, we are here to help. The compassionate lawyers at Allen & Allen offer free case evaluations and look forward to understanding the details of your unique case.  Call today, at 866-388-1307.