Apple sauce pouches full of lead.

Plus: How to battle a nighttime cough.


Consumer Safety And Our Global Supply Chain

A global supply chain has its pros and cons. Pros? It brings us a wide variety of affordable products from around the world. But what about the cons? Well, there are plenty—with food safety concerns at the top of the list.  

This brings us to the ongoing crisis involving lead-tainted applesauce pouches. So, what’s the latest news, and what does it mean for consumer safety?

Back in October, the FDA alerted the public about elevated blood lead levels in four North Carolina children (READ MORE) who had consumed cinnamon applesauce pouches imported from Ecuador. This led to a nationwide recall of WanaBana, Schnucks, and Weis branded applesauce products sold by major retailers. Since then, the situation has worsened, with the FDA now reporting 87 confirmed cases and the CDC investigating a total of 321 cases.

Yikes—that’s a lot of kids dealing with toxic levels of lead. 

The scale of this crisis is staggering, considering that at least 1.8 million units of these applesauce pouches, often sold in multipacks, were distributed over several months. The culprit behind this contamination was found to be extremely high levels of lead in the cinnamon used in these products, possibly due to contamination with lead chromate, a toxic coloring agent.

One significant challenge in addressing this issue is the FDA's limited jurisdiction overseas. The agency can inspect foreign production facilities but lacks authority over suppliers not exporting directly to the U.S. This limitation makes it difficult to trace the contamination's origin and prevent future incidents.


Bringing this back to global supply chains, this situation underscores the downsides of globalizing our food system and the complexities of long supply chains. While trade liberalization has made goods more affordable, it also increases the risk of dangerous oversights. 

The discovery of the lead contamination in the applesauce was almost accidental, thanks to routine blood lead screening and the diligent efforts of health officials in North Carolina. 

In response to this crisis, health advocates are urging the FDA to require companies to actively work to prevent contaminants like heavy metals, not just pathogens. The lack of federal testing requirements and limits for these contaminants in many food products, particularly those for babies and children, is a significant concern. These products are feeding our children, and they deserve better. 

On a positive note, California has taken a significant step by instituting its own testing mandate for heavy metals in baby food, which will likely influence manufacturers nationwide due to the state's large consumer base.

The key takeaway? This ordeal has turned into a crisis with wide-reaching implications. One thing is clear, though. Greater oversight and stricter safety measures in our global food supply chain might not be a bad idea. Ensuring the safety of food products, especially those consumed by vulnerable populations like children, must be a top priority. 

That said, there is another way to look at all this. This should be a wake-up call for parents to be more careful about what their children put into their bodies. Cook meals at home, understand where all your ingredients come from, and purchase locally sourced foods as much as possible. Those are the things in your control. The products that come from a long, global supply chain might be cheap and convenient, but is that really what’s best for you and your family? 

Probably not. 

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