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  1. Environmental Contaminants in Food

Lead in Food and Foodwares

March 6, 2024 

Following the October 2023 recall of cinnamon apple puree and applesauce products due to elevated lead levels linked to the cinnamon in those products and the concern for lead toxicity in children, the FDA initiated a targeted survey of discount ground cinnamon products from retail stores and analyzed the samples for lead and chromium. Based on results from the survey, the FDA recommended recalls of ground cinnamon from distributors whose products had elevated lead levels. Please visit the following pages for more information: 

Average Daily Dietary Exposure to Lead for 1-3 Year Olds

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The FDA's work to reduce the use of lead in cans combined with the phaseout of lead in gasoline resulted in a dramatic decline in lead exposure from foods by the mid-1980s.

Lead may be present in food from the environment where foods are grown, raised, or processed. Levels of lead in the environment can vary depending on natural geographical makeup and proximity to current or past use or manufacturing of products made with lead. For example, lead has entered the environment from the past widespread use of lead in paint, gasoline, and plumbing materials, as well as many other products. While many commercial and industrial uses of lead have been phased out, there are still some products used or made in the U.S. that contain lead, and it is still used in products made in other countries.

Because there is no known safe level of exposure to lead, the FDA monitors and regulates levels of lead in foods. While it is not possible to completely prevent lead from entering the food supply, for foods that contain lead, it may be possible to reduce the levels through changes to agricultural or manufacturing practices. By law, food manufacturers have a responsibility to significantly minimize or prevent chemical hazards when needed.

To determine if the level of lead in a food is a potential health concern, the FDA considers the toxicity of lead and potential exposure based on the level of lead measured in the food and estimated consumption. We also may consider the risks specific to vulnerable subpopulations (e.g., very young children). If the agency finds that the level of lead causes the food to be unsafe, we will take regulatory action. This may include working with the manufacturer to resolve the issue, and as necessary, taking steps to prevent the product from entering, or remaining in, the U.S. market.

Among the FDA’s top priorities is maintaining access to foods that are sources of nutrients while limiting consumer exposure to contaminants. Having adequate nutrition is vital to growth and development for babies and children and helps promote health and prevent disease throughout our lifespan. The FDA collaborates with state and federal partners, industry, and other stakeholders to identify and facilitate the implementation of sustainable and effective strategies for growing, sourcing, processing, and manufacturing foods that contain lower levels of environmental contaminants, such as lead, while maintaining their nutritional quality and accessibility.

For more information about the FDA’s specific activities to reduce exposure to arsenic, lead, mercury, and cadmium from foods consumed by babies and young children, please visit the Closer to Zero page.

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