Philadelphia/ Health & Lifestyle
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Published on March 01, 2024
Pennsylvania Lead Poisoning Cases Linked to Tainted Applesauce; Brands WanaBana and Weis ImplicatedSource: Unsplash/ Olga Kononenko

A health crisis has surfaced in Pennsylvania with reports of over 20 individuals suffering from lead poisoning after consuming applesauce products tainted with high levels of the toxic substance. The Pennsylvania Health Department linked these cases to applesauce packets from various brands including WanaBana and Weis store brands, reports.

The centers of these worrying poisoning cases are spread across several counties including Allegheny, Cumberland, and Philadelphia, among others. In trying to stop the distribution of patients' private information, the exact number of cases per county remains undisclosed. According to a more comprehensive picture painted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 468 cases of lead poisoning nationwide, with 111 confirmed so far, as says.

Investigations into the source of contamination traced the lead back to a ground cinnamon processing plant in Ecuador. This facility, now shut down, was identified as the origin of the tainted applesauce. North Carolina health officials initially discovered the contamination, which prompted an FDA warning and a subsequent recall of WanaBana fruit pouches. The recall later expanded to other brands' cinnamon-flavored offerings after elevated lead concentrations were confirmed in them as well, according to information obtained by

While safety auditors are responsible for inspecting imported food, gaps in the system surfaced when it was revealed that lead risk in applesauce wasn't flagged for testing. In fact, one auditor even granted a stellar safety rating to the apple sauce maker after the recalls and poisonings had occurred. Despite U.S. officials inspecting the Austrofood facility in Ecuador in 2019 and finding no issues, the FDA had not returned for a follow-up check until the lead issue arose nearly five years later, reports.

Families affected by the crisis have begun to file lawsuits against WanaBana, Austrofoods, and other involved retailers like Dollar Tree. Allegations include deceptive practices and seeking compensation for lead poisoning treatments and long-term medical monitoring for affected children. These lawsuits underscore the severity of the situation and the demand for accountability from the companies at fault, detailed further.

Moreover, a joint investigation by The New York Times and The Examination highlighted the shortcomings of current food safety regulations, indicating that the FDA relies heavily on companies to test for toxins and ensure product safety. Neal Fortin, director of the Institute for Food Laws and Regulations at Michigan State University, put it bluntly in his statement to the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Largely, the food supply regulatory system is based on an honor system." As for the FDA, the agency places the onus on companies to make sure their products don't pose a risk, with its top official, Jim Jones, stating, "The agency's job is to help the industry comply and hold those who evade these requirements accountable, as appropriate."

While the authorities grapple with the fallout and seek to prevent future incidents, the FDA has suggested that individuals who may have consumed the recalled products contact their healthcare providers for lead testing as a precaution, as indicated by the Philadelphia Inquirer.