Fruit pouches recalled: Lead poisoning sickens more children, 52 total

At least 18 more children have been sickened by the recently recalled applesauce fruit pouches due to dangerous lead contamination, the Food and Drug Administration said, in a recent update.

That brings the total number of affected children to 52.

Children aged 1 to 4, across 22 states have fallen sick from lead poisoning, said the FDA, as the agency continues to evaluate incoming reports.

Applesauce pouches recall timeline: From recalls to poisoned kids in multiple states

How does lead get into applesauce?

Investigators found that the lead contained in the recalled applesauce pouches, manufactured in Ecuador and sold under the WanaBana, Schnucks and Weiss brands, had 2.18 parts per million of lead.

The finding was 200 times more than what the FDA proposed as an action level in draft guidance for baby food.

The FDA believes that the source of the lead contamination is the cinnamon used in the recalled pouches as tests of non-recalled products without cinnamon did not find lead in them.

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Recalled apple cinnamon puree pouches still on store shelves

Despite the recall, WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Puree pouches are still available at several Dollar Tree stores in multiple states, said the FDA, adding that they are working with the chain of stores to "ensure an effective recall".

"This product should not be available for sale and consumers should not purchase or consume this product as it is potentially contaminated with lead, which can be harmful to health, particularly for children," said the FDA in their update.

The food regulator also advised consumer and retailers to properly discard the product by carefully opening the pouch, emptying the contents into a trash can and discarding the packaging to "prevent others from salvaging recalled product from the trash".

FDA also advised users to properly wash their hands after discarding the product and ensuring that no spills are left behind.

Earlier this month Schnuck Markets Inc. said in a press release that the manufacturer Austrofood SAS, used "cinnamon raw material" with elevated levels of lead.

Oregon Public Health officials separately found that six children in the state who were poisoned after consuming the recalled fruit puree.

This handout photo show images of applesauce packets recalled due to lead contamination.
This handout photo show images of applesauce packets recalled due to lead contamination.

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What are the signs and symptoms of lead poisoning?

Lead is toxic to humans and can affect people of all ages and health statuses. Exposure to lead is often difficult to identify, according to the FDA, and most children have no obvious immediate symptoms.

Exposure to lead can only be diagnosed through clinical testing, and signs and symptoms of lead toxicity varies, based on exposure.

Here are some symptoms of short-term lead exposure:

  • Headache

  • Abdominal pain/Colic

  • Vomiting

  • Anemia

Long-term exposure to lead could have additional symptoms, including:

  • Irritability

  • Lethargy

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle aches or muscle prickling/burning

  • Occasional abdominal discomfort

  • Constipation

  • Difficulty concentrating/Muscular exhaustibility

  • Headache

  • Tremor

  • Weight loss

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What does lead exposure do?

Lead exposure can seriously harm a child's health and lead to long-term health effects, the CDC says, including:

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system

  • Slowed growth and development

  • Learning and behavior problems

  • Hearing and speech problems

  • This can lead to negative effects on learning and focus, the CDC notes.

Contributing: James Powel, Emily DeLetter, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fruit pouches recalled due to lead poisoning, 52 children sickened