Attorney General Raúl Torrez Calls on FDA to Protect Children from Lead and Other Toxic Metals in Baby Food

Albuquerque, NM – Attorney General Raúl Torrez has joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take urgent action to protect infants and young children nationwide from lead and other toxic metals in baby food.

In a letter, Attorney General Torrez and the coalition urged the FDA to act on their October 2021 petition and subsequent June 2022 petition and letter, which asked the FDA to issue specific guidance to the baby food industry to require testing of all finished food products for lead and other toxic metals. The coalition emphasizes the critical need for the FDA to act, citing recent findings of hundreds of child lead poisonings linked to recalled cinnamon applesauce pouches that were sold in stores throughout the country without first being tested for toxic metals.

“It goes without saying that the discovery of lead in children’s food is alarming and completely unacceptable. The FDA must take immediate, decisive action to protect our nation’s children from this unnecessary risk,” said AG Torrez. “What compounds this issue is the fact that our low-income and communities of color are already bearing the brunt of exposure to lead from various sources in their environment. The presence of lead in baby food adds another layer of risk, further endangering these already vulnerable communities.

Despite the agency’s conclusion years ago that infants and young children’s smaller bodies and metabolisms make them more vulnerable to the harmful effects of toxic metals, the FDA has established a single action level for one type of toxic metal in one type of baby food product to date: inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal. Under the current FDA policy, baby food manufacturers are left to decide whether or not to test their products for toxic metals and other contaminants.

This delay in FDA action is both a public health concern and a matter of environmental justice, as children from low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by lead through exposure to lead-based paint, lead in drinking water pipes, and other sources. Lead in their food exacerbates the existing inordinate and inequitable hazards these children face.

In the letter, Attorney General Torrez and the coalition highlight recent widespread child lead poisonings related to high levels of lead detected in WanaBana, Schnucks, and Weis brand cinnamon applesauce pouches, that were not tested for toxic metals and have since been recalled. The now-recalled WanaBana pouches were sold in Dollar Tree stores throughout the country. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified nearly 400 confirmed or probable childhood lead poisoning cases in connection to consumption of these cinnamon applesauce pouches.

Consumers who have purchased these recalled products and may still have them in their homes should not feed them to children or anyone else. Instead, these products should be safely discarded by carefully opening each pouch and emptying the contents into the garbage to prevent others from possibly salvaging and consuming the recalled products. For more information on these recalled products, consult the FDA.

Joining Attorney General Torrez in sending this letter to the FDA are the attorneys general of New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.