WanaBana Class Action Lawsuit Filed Over Cinnamon Apple Sauce Lead Contamination
A class action lawsuit has been filed against the makers of recalled cinnamon apple sauce products sold under the Wanabaa, Schnucks and Weis brands, alleging that deceptive and misleading practices placed consumers, particularly children, at an increased risk of lead poisoning.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Samantha Marsh on December 21 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, naming Wanabana LLC and Wanabana USA LLC as defendants. The lawsuit seeks class action status on behalf of purchasers of the recalled apple sauce products that have been found to contain dangerous levels of lead.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first issued a consumer advisory on October 28, following an investigation by North Carolina health officials into several cases of child lead poisoning. The investigation was linked back to Wanabana apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches. This led to a WanaBana applesauce pouch recall the next day. At the time, there were four cases of illnesses reported.
Days later, the applesauce recall was expanded to include additional products distributed under Weis and Schnucks brands, after investigators also identified elevated lead levels in those cinnamon-flavored fruit products.
A lead poisoning outbreak update issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on December 22 indicates there are now currently 73 confirmed lead poisoning cases, 157 probably cases, and 21 suspected cases spread across 34 states.
Marsh does not claim that she or any child suffered an injury from the cinnamon apple sauce lead contamination, but indicates she and others were financially harmed and lost money buying products that were useless and dangerous.
“Had Defendants not made the false, misleading, and deceptive representations and omissions regarding the contents of the Products, Plaintiff would not have been willing to purchase the Products,” the lawsuit states. “The Products Plaintiff received were worthless because they contain the known harmful neurotoxin, Lead.”
She seeks refunds for all consumers who purchased the lead-tainted products nationwide, and calls for the manufacturer to establish and fund a blood testing program for consumers and their children who used the products.
The complaint is at least the second lawsuit filed against the company, with the first being from a family in North Carolina over a child that suffered elevated blood lead levels.
Apple Sauce Lead Contamination Investigation
The lawsuit comes as the CDC and FDA are continuing their investigation into the source of the apple sauce lead contamination, having traced the lead poisoning back to cinnamon used in the products. FDA investigators speculate that the high levels of lead may have been intentionally added to make the products more visually appealing.
The ingredient was supplied by a third-party distribution company, Negasmart, located in Ecuador. It was then sold to Austrofood in Ecuador and used to manufacture the fruit puree products.
Additionally, officials indicate that Ecuadorian authorities have also detected higher lead levels in Negasmart’s cinnamon than the country allows, and the supplier is currently under an administrative sanction process to determine who is responsible for the contamination.
Lead Poisoning Risks
Lead is a toxic heavy metal that can cause permanent brain damage, nervous system injuries, cognitive impairment, physical disabilities, or other long-term health consequences. Children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure, as they are still developing and do not usually show exposure signs or symptoms.
While short-term exposure can cause headaches, abdominal pain, headaches, vomiting, or other minor symptoms, longer exposure may result in more severe symptoms, including lethargy, muscular weakness, confusion, or tremors.
According to pediatricians, there is no safe lead exposure level for children, and any exposure may increase the risk of developing serious or permanent injuries, or even death.
New research indicates that lead exposure during pregnancy may even impact an unborn baby’s development and cognitive skills after they are born, finding higher instances of mental impairment or delayed development after prenatal lead exposure.
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