Cinnamon applesauce pouches that have been linked to an outbreak of lead poisoning have also tested positive for “high levels” of chromium, which is another toxic heavy metal, according to the FDA Outbreak Investigation.
The new details came as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 287 cases of lead poisoning in 37 states, with nearly all of the victims being children under 6 years old.
The outbreak has been linked to cinnamon-flavored applesauce pouches that were sold nationwide at Dollar Tree and other stores under the brand-names WanaBana®, Schnucks® and Weis®.
The FDA did not say what type of chromium was detected in the cinnamon ingredient. One type, Chromium III, is an essential nutrient, while another version, chromium VI, is known to cause cancer.
The ratio of lead-to-chromium was consistent with lead chromate, which contains chromium VI, according to the FDA.
Lead chromate which is a cheap and toxic lead-based chemical that is used illegally to add color to brightly-colored spices like turmeric or cinnamon, boosting its value — and poisoning the people who eat it.
Cinnamon tested from the plant in Ecuador where the applesauce pouches were manufactured had levels of lead over 2,000 times higher than a maximum level that has been proposed by the FDA.
The FDA said the health effects of eating food contaminated with chromium VI are not well understood:
“Some people might not experience any symptoms. Symptoms for children are likely similar to those of adults. Acute ingestion of chromium exceeding dietary recommendations may result in abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, renal and hepatic dysfunction.”
Anyone who ate the recalled cinnamon applesauce pouches should tell their doctor and get a blood test. Consumers should also inform their healthcare professional that they may have been exposed to high levels of chromium.