The FDA Also Found Chromium in the Lead-Contaminated Applesauce Pouches

The FDA Also Found Chromium in the Lead-Contaminated Applesauce PouchesInvestigators from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have discovered another contaminant in the recalled applesauce pouches. Last year, WanaBana, Schnucks, and Weis-branded cinnamon applesauce and cinnamon apple puree pouches were recalled because of lead contamination.

Chromium is a naturally occurring element, but unlike lead, having some in your diet isn’t necessarily dangerous. However – and this is the critical part – only chromium-3 is safe. Chromium-6 is a carcinogen, meaning it causes cancer. (You may recognize it if you watched the movie Erin Brockovich.) Per the Washington Post, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – which issued guidance based on the findings of the FDA’s investigation – doesn’t know which type of chromium is in the cinnamon applesauce pouches:

In its guidance to health-care providers regarding the contamination and recall, the CDC noted that chromium-3 is an essential nutrient found in a normal diet and in some supplements. But it added that “chronic, prolonged inhalational and skin exposure” to chromium-6 has been associated with chronic lung disease and ulceration of skin and mucous membranes. “The exact form of chromium in the recalled applesauce products is unclear,” the agency said.

Lead chromate, which contains the potentially toxic chromium-6, has been used in the past to enhance the coloring of turmeric. Federal investigators say the “lead-to-chromium ratio” in the applesauce pouches “is consistent with that of lead chromate.”

The FDA says that “both forms of chromium are used in many industrial applications and may be a by-product of manufacturing processes.”

Why do we need chromium-3?

Science isn’t quite sure that we even do. The National Institutes of Health has the following to say:

In 2001, the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine considered chromium to be an essential nutrient based on its effects on insulin action. However, recent research has suggested that although chromium might have benefits at pharmacologic amounts (e.g., in the hundreds of mcg), it is not an essential mineral because an absence or deficiency of chromium does not produce abnormalities that can be reversed with the addition of chromium…. The FNB has not evaluated chromium since 2001. However, in 2014, the European Food Safety Authority Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies concluded that no convincing evidence shows that chromium is an essential nutrient and, therefore, setting chromium intake recommendations would be inappropriate.

The thing is, there’s chromium-3 in your food because there’s chromium in the soil. It may even transfer from your pots and pans. There are studies that say it reduces the risks of complications from diabetes, or that low chromium levels may be linked to elevated cholesterol – but there is nothing truly definitive one way or the other. Because low amounts of chromium-3 are harmless, and because our bodies naturally excrete it through urine, there is very little data about how long it sticks around, what the effects are if it remains in our cells, or what long-term damage it can cause.

Chromium-6 is a different matter.

What are the signs of chromium exposure?

Ingesting too much chromium can lead to gastrointestinal distress: stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.

Ingesting high doses of chromium-3 can damage to your liver and kidneys, or lead to anemia. Chronic exposure to chromium-6 in particular poses a cancer risk.

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What should I do if my child ate the contaminated applesauce pouches?

If you have not yet scheduled a lead test for your child, do so immediately. You can (and should) also request chromium testing. While some medical experts, the Washington Post reports, believe that any chromium-6 would likely be converted to chromium-3 because of acidity (either in the applesauce or in your stomach), you should still test your child for both elements. If you are enrolled in Medicaid, the testing costs are covered.

If your child has been exposed to chromium, the doctors will treat his or her symptoms. There is no antidote for chromium ingestion or inhalation.

We recommend that you keep any uneaten pouches someplace safe where your children cannot get to them. The unopened packages can be used as part of your claim. Any open packages should be disposed of immediately, and the CDC recommends that you wash your hands after throwing the pouches out.

The number of confirmed cases of lead poisoning continues to rise

Per the FDA, there have been 87 confirmed reports of “adverse events” associated with contaminated applesauce. The CDC, however, uses a different reporting system. Per their data, across 41 states there are:

Total Cases: 354

  • Confirmed Cases: 93
  • Probable Cases: 233
  • Suspect Cases: 28

Martin & Helms, P.C. is continuing to follow these cases carefully, as we currently represent clients whose loved ones sustained lead poisoning after eating contaminated applesauce pouches. As personal injury lawyers with experience handling complex poisoning cases as well as defective product cases, we’re well aware what you face if you choose to pursue litigation. Let us help you. For a free consultation, call our attorneys in Huntsville and Decatur, or fill out our contact form. We also serve clients in Madison, Athens, and all of North Alabama.