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Applesauce recall investigation sparks new warning

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Applesauce recall investigation sparks new warning

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning Dollar Tree after accusing the discount retailer of failing to “adequately remove” applesauce products that had been recalled for contamination with heavy metals.

The FDA announced the recall of WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches in October after it was discovered that the products “may contain elevated levels of lead.” Samples tested in North Carolina found “extremely high concentrations” of the heavy metal following four suspected cases of lead poisoning in children.

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Lead is highly toxic to humans, with children being particularly vulnerable. Chromium, which can also be toxic at high doses, was later discovered in samples of the recalled products. At least 90 complaints of adverse reactions linked to the recall had been reported to the FDA earlier this year.

In an update to an investigation of the contamination that was shared to the FDA website on Tuesday, the agency said that it had recently sent a warning letter to Dollar Tree, Inc., over concerns that the company did not “quickly” take the products from store shelves following the recall.

Apple Sauce Recall Warning Investigation Dollar Tree
A cup of applesauce is pictured in this undated file photo. The FDA announced a recall of some pouches of applesauce in the fall over concerns that the products were contaminated with lead.

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“In the weeks and months that followed the manufacturer’s voluntary recall of apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches, public health officials across many states reported continuing to see recalled WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches on Dollar Tree store shelves,” the FDA wrote in the update.

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“The Agency is concerned with Dollar Tree’s capability to quickly remove unsafe products from its store shelves as necessary and as required during a public health threat, such as a recall,” it added.

Dollar Tree was given 15 days to respond to the letter, which was dated June 11, with a demand “to address any violations and prevent the recurrence of violations” or provide “supporting information as to why the company believes it is not in violation of the law.”

In the letter, the FDA notes that its investigation revealed “FDA and state and local partners continued to find recalled product on Dollar Tree store shelves” in late December, well after the recall was put into effect and despite several calls between the agency and the company to attempt to get the pouches off shelves.

“At various times following calls with FDA, you provided information regarding corrective actions and additional actions taken to effectuate this particular recall,” the FDA’s letter reads.

“However, to date, you have not provided FDA with any information demonstrating that long-term, sustainable corrections have been implemented throughout your organization to prevent adulterated food from being received in interstate commerce and subsequently offered for sale in the future,” it continues.

Newsweek reached out for comment to Dollar Tree, Inc., via email on Tuesday night.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there’s “no safe blood lead level,” as even low levels of the metal have the ability to seriously impact the health of children. Most children have no obvious immediate symptoms but may later experience signs of brain damage or learning disabilities.

Short-term symptoms of lead poisoning include headaches, abdominal pain, colic, vomiting and anemia. Long-term exposure can result in irritability, lethargy, fatigue, muscle aches or muscle prickling/burning, constipation, difficulty concentrating, tremors and weight loss.

The FDA urged any consumers who may still be in possession of the affected applesauce pouches—the recall was later expanded to include some Schnucks and Weis products—to immediately discard the products, while parents and caregivers of children who may have been exposed should contact their health care providers.