Lead Contaminated WanaBana Apple Sauce Sold at Dollar Tree for Months After Recall: FDA Warning Letter

Dollar Tree continued to sell Wanabana Apple Cinnamon fruit pouches on store shelves for at least two months after being recalled for lead contamination

WanaBana apple sauce pouches contaminated with toxic lead and chromium stayed on Dollar Tree store shelves for months after the retailer was notified about a massive recall for products, which have been linked to hundreds of severe illnesses in dozens of different states, according to federal regulators.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning letter to Dollar Tree, Inc. on June 18, indicating that the discount retailer exposed children and other consumers to an unnecessary risk of lead poisoning, but failing to take proper steps to remove contaminated WanaBana applesauce pouches from store shelves.

In October 2023, a nationwide WanaBana apple sauce recall was issued, after elevated blood levels of lead were found in children who ate the fruit puree. More than 500 cases of apple sauce lead poisoning were linked to the pouches and other similar products sourced from the same manufacturing ingredients, and a rapidly growing number of WanaBana lead poisoning lawsuits has already driven the manufacturer into bankruptcy.

Dollar Tree was notified the same day that the recall was issued about the risks associated with the WanaBana pouches. However, federal investigators indicate that the contaminated apple sauce products were still being sold at Dollar Tree and Family Dollar/Dollar Tree combination stores as late as December 2023.

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FDA investigators determined the source of the contamination was ground cinnamon from a processor in Ecuador, Carlos Aguilera, who likely added the toxic heavy metals intentionally to make a low-quality product have a deeper color.

The agency’s warning letter indicated Dollar Tree received “interstate commerce” and delivery of contaminated food, which is in violation of the Food, Drug & Cosmetics Act. Furthermore, audit checks conducted after reports confirmed that contaminated Wana Bana apple sauce pouches were still on the shelves and being sold by Dollar Tree months later.

The letter said the WanaBana recall was not effective because Dollar Tree failed to follow FDA recommendations and fully remove the contaminated product from store shelves, which would protect consumers. Additionally, attempts by federal health officials to notify Dollar Tree about the problem failed. The company continued to sell the products containing toxic lead and the company maintained it had pulled all affected products despite the pouches still being available for sale.

Dollar Tree issued lock sales for the products at store registers, but the FDA said that was not effective to keep consumers from buying the products since the pouches were still on store shelves. In one case, a parent allowed a child to eat an applesauce pouch from the shelf before checking out, but the stop sale at the register prevented them from paying for the product.

The letter indicates Dollar Tree must respond to the FDA in writing within 15 working days to detail the specific steps the company plans to take to address the violations and remedy the problem.

If Dollar Tree fails to address the problems and remedy the situation, the FDA can initiate legal action, including seizure of their products and injunction.

Lead Exposure Health Risks

Lead is a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in soil, but it is toxic to humans. Lead exposure, even at low levels, can cause damage to the brain and nervous system. Other long-term health consequences can include headaches, vomiting, tremors, and difficulty concentrating.

Children are especially susceptible to the negative effects of lead exposure. It can cause cognitive impairment and physical disabilities. Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics warns there is no safe level of lead exposure for children. Even at low levels, life-long health problems can occur.

More so, childhood exposure to lead can reduce the brain’s structural integrity later in life, according to data published by researchers from Duke University.

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