There Might Be Lead in Your Cinnamon

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: Mar 15, 2024

You might think your kitchen is safe from harmful contaminants, but a recent FDA warning suggests otherwise. Ground cinnamon, a common ingredient in many households, has been found to contain potentially dangerous levels of lead.

This discovery reminds us of the hidden dangers lurking in everyday products. Protecting your family starts with being informed, so let’s examine the facts and figure out how to avoid these risks.

Lead Contamination Alert

In a surprising recall report, the FDA announced elevated lead levels in ground cinnamon products from several brands. Specifically, lead concentrations ranged from 2.03 to 3.4 parts per million.

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These levels are concerning because they exceed the international safety standard proposed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which is 2.5 ppm for spices (via NBC News). Lead is a toxic metal that can cause significant health problems, highlighting the urgency of this issue.

Affected Brands and Retailers

The affected ground cinnamon products include brands such as La Fiesta, Marcum (sold at Save A Lot), MK (found at SF Supermarket), Swad (available at Patel Brothers), Supreme Tradition (sold at Dollar Tree & Family Dollar), and El Chilar.

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Consumers who have purchased cinnamon from these brands should be particularly vigilant. Check your pantry and ensure your spice isn’t from a contaminated batch to keep your meals safe.

The Health Risks of Lead

Lead exposure is not a trivial matter. According to the CDC, it can lead to severe health issues, especially in young children, including developmental delays, long-term learning difficulties, and lower IQ scores.

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Adults aren’t immune, either. Lead can cause reproductive problems and increase the risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage.

FDA's Response and Recommendations

Following the FDA’s October 2023 recall of cinnamon apple purée and applesauce products due to elevated lead levels, the FDA has been on high alert. Their targeted survey of ground cinnamon products from discount retail stores has led to this recent advisory.

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The FDA recommends consumers stop using, selling, or serving the affected products immediately. They emphasize the importance of discarding these items to prevent any health risks associated with lead exposure.

Consumer Safety Measures

If you have any of the listed ground cinnamon products at home, it’s crucial to dispose of them right away.

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Given its long shelf life of three to four years, ground cinnamon could remain in households for years, posing a prolonged health risk. Always check product recalls and safety alerts to ensure your spices and other food items are safe.


How to Identify Safe Cinnamon

Not all cinnamon is contaminated. To ensure your cinnamon is safe, check the brand, lot codes, and purchase location against the FDA’s advisory list.

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Stick to reputable sources and consider contacting manufacturers directly for information on their testing and safety protocols. Brand transparency can be a good indicator of their commitment to safety.


The Bigger Picture: Cinnamon's Lead Problem

This isn’t the first time cinnamon has been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. As mentioned, the October 2023 recall was a significant event that brought attention to the issue of lead contamination in spices.

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These incidents highlight the broader problem of contaminant monitoring in imported foods and spices. It’s a complex issue that the FDA continues to tackle through its sampling and testing programs.


Long-Term Solutions and FDA Efforts

In response to these findings, the FDA is not only alerting the public but also working with manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to remove contaminated products from the market.

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They are reinforcing the importance of Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) for Food and Dietary Supplements and preventive controls among cinnamon producers. This collaborative approach aims to ensure such contamination issues are addressed promptly and effectively.


The Importance of Reporting

The FDA urges health care professionals, consumers, and patients to report any adverse events or lead exposure incidents to their MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program.

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Reporting can help the FDA take appropriate action and prevent further exposure. If you believe you’ve been affected, speak up — it can make a difference.


Protecting Your Health: Nutritional Defenses

Good nutrition can play a role in mitigating the effects of lead exposure. A diet rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin C can help prevent lead absorption in the body.

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Diversifying your diet and ensuring you consume a variety of foods from all food groups can also reduce the risk of repeated exposure to contaminants in any one food source.


Stay Informed and Safe

Staying updated on food safety alerts and recalls is crucial in this ever-changing world. Regularly check sources like the FDA website for updates on safe consumption practices and product recalls.

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Being informed is your first line of defense against potential health risks in your kitchen. Remember, knowledge is power, especially when it comes to protecting your family’s health.