Ground cinnamon sold at discount stores is tainted with lead, FDA warns

This combination of photos provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday, March 6, 2024 shows cinnamon products sold in U.S. discount stores which contain elevated levels of lead. Top row from left are distributed by La Fiesta Food Products of La Miranda, Calif.; Moran Foods, LLC of Saint Ann, Mo., and MTCI of Santa Fe Springs, Calif. Bottom row from left are from Raja Foods LLC of Skokie, Ill.; Greenbriar International, Inc. of Chesapeake, Va., and El Chilar of Apopka, Fla. (FDA via AP)

This combination of photos provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday, March 6, 2024 shows cinnamon products sold in U.S. discount stores which contain elevated levels of lead. Top row from left are distributed by La Fiesta Food Products of La Miranda, Calif.; Moran Foods, LLC of Saint Ann, Mo., and MTCI of Santa Fe Springs, Calif. Bottom row from left are from Raja Foods LLC of Skokie, Ill.; Greenbriar International, Inc. of Chesapeake, Va., and El Chilar of Apopka, Fla. (FDA via AP)

Ground cinnamon sold by U.S. discount retailers is contaminated with high levels of lead and should be discarded, federal health officials said Wednesday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said cinnamon sold by stores including the Dollar Tree and Family Dollar contains lead at levels that could be unsafe for people, particularly children, with prolonged exposure to the spice. The agency urged suppliers to recall the products voluntarily.

Cinnamon products included in the agency’s safety alert include the La Fiesta brand sold by La Superior and SuperMercados; Marcum brand sold by Save A Lot stores; MK brands sold by SF Supermarket; Swad brand sold by Patel Brothers; El Chilar brand sold by La Joya Morelense; and Supreme Tradition brand sold by Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores.

“Removing the ground cinnamon products in this alert from the market will prevent them from contributing elevated amounts of lead to the diets of children,” the alert said.

Consumers should not buy the products and should throw away any containers they have at home, the agency said.

Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores have removed the cinnamon from their store shelves, a company spokesperson said. Customers can return products to nearby stores for a refund.

FDA officials launched what they called a “targeted survey” of cinnamon products sold in discount stores after an October 2023 recall of lead-tainted cinnamon applesauce pouches that sickened nearly 500 U.S. children.

The ground cinnamon products in Wednesday’s notice had lead levels of 2.03 to 3.4 parts per million, far lower than the puree pouches, which contained 2,270 parts per million to 5,110 parts per million of lead.

No illnesses or other health effects have been reported in connection with the new ground cinnamon alert, the FDA said.

There is no safe level of lead exposure for humans. Long-term exposure of lead can cause problems, especially in growing children, including learning disabilities, behavioral difficulties and lower IQ.

The FDA monitors foods for lead levels, but the U.S. government doesn’t broadly limit lead in food products. The agency sent a letter to all cinnamon manufacturers, processors, distributors and facility operators in the U.S. reminding them they’re required to prevent contamination from chemical hazards in food, including spices.

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