FDA warns consumers to throw away cheap cinnamon products that are heavily contaminated with LEAD

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent out a new consumer alert, warning about high LEAD levels recently detected in ground cinnamon products found in American dollar stores and supermarkets. The FDA is urging suppliers to recall the tainted products on a voluntary basis. These lead levels are, in fact, dangerous for childhood development. There is currently no explanation for why these brands contain such high levels of brain-damaging lead.

Multiple brands of cinnamon test high for LEAD

The lead levels are significant across multiple cinnamon brands, including: 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. The lead levels ranged from 2.03 to 3.4 parts per million, which is more than enough to impair brain function with prolonged consumption.

In recent years, more cheap herbs and spices have flooded the North American market. Many of these products are starting to turn up with high levels of lead, arsenic and cadmium. These three metals damage the brain and are especially unsafe for children. Heavy metals are harmful because they are not properly digested; they can readily bio-accumulate; and they interfere with cellular and hormonal processes, including nutrient absorption. Lead exposure in children leads to learning disabilities, behavioral issues and lower IQ scores. Cadmium and arsenic exposure is linked to reproductive issues, kidney dysfunction and multiple cancers.

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The FDA’s alert is clear: “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 agency is urging parents to throw away any containers of ground cinnamon that come from these aforementioned sources. Family Dollar and the Dollar Tree corporate headquarters have ordered the tainted products to be discarded. Anyone who purchased these products can return them for a full refund.

Heavy metal contamination of herbs and spices is a systemic issue

The FDA would not have conducted these specific heavy metals tests if it weren’t for a cluster of strange illness in children that brought this issue to the mainstream. In October 2023, the FDA recalled lead-tainted cinnamon applesauce pouches that sickened nearly 500 U.S. children. These products contained 2,270 parts per million to 5,110 parts per million of lead and sent dozens of children to the emergency room. This incident prompted the FDA to take a “targeted survey” of cinnamon products found in discount stores.

The issue of heavy metal contamination of herbs and spices is systemic. A 2021 analysis of brand name spices by Consumer Reports found concerning levels of heavy metals in approximately one third of the products tested. The analysis found 40 tainted products out of 126. According to Consumer Reports, a total of 31 products contained levels so high, they exceeded the maximum amount that anyone should have in a single day.

Tainted brands include: Great Value (Walmart), La Flor Spices, McCormick & Co., Penzeys Spices, Spice Islands and 365 by Whole Foods Market. The tainted products spanned multiple herbs and spices, including culinary ground basil, ground ginger, ground oregano, paprika, ground thyme and ground turmeric. Since the report came out, there have been four lawsuits against the companies and the distributors of these tainted products.

If companies are not testing for heavy metals and ensuring the quality of their products, then there is significant risk that even healthy products like spices and herbs are actually doing more harm than good. Heavy metals contamination is pervasive in North America, and the source of this heavy metal contamination will not be remediated any time soon.

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