Ecuadorian authorities have named a suspect in their investigation into now-recalled lead-contaminated applesauce that has been linked to the poisoning of more than 400 Americans in 43 states, the Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday — but American authorities have “limited authority”. take action against him.
Ecuadorian authorities say Carlos Aguilera, a cinnamon mill worker in Ecuador, is “the likely source” of the poisonings, the FDA said in an update, noting that the investigation by the Agencia Nacional de Regulación, Control y Vigilancia Sanitaria and the legal proceedings aimed at determining responsibility for the contamination still remain current.
U.S. authorities have said for months that they suspected the lead poisonings might be intentional, saying one of the theories they followed was that it was the result of “economically motivated tampering” of cinnamon used in applesauce.
“The FDA’s investigation is ongoing to determine the point of contamination and whether other products are linked to illnesses,” the agency said in its statement.
Other spices, such as turmeric, have been intentionally contaminated with lead and other substances in the past, by sellers seeking to hide defects in their products or otherwise inflate the amount of money they received. ‘they can win.
Tests of cinnamon sticks that Aguilera had purchased in Sri Lanka but not yet processed were tested by Ecuador and were not contaminated with lead, the FDA said.
The FDA previously said that ground cinnamon supplied by Ecuadorian distributor Negasmart, which ended up in WanaBana’s applesauce, was tested for levels of lead and chromium contamination at “extremely high” concentrations. , well above what experts consider safe.
In December, the FDAWanaBana for not testing its cinnamon applesauce packets for heavy metals. The agency said the applesauce maker should have taken steps to mitigate the risk that the cinnamon it buys for its packets was contaminated with lead and other toxins.
But the agency also stopped short of definitively describing lead poisonings as intentional, as opposed to the result of an accident or environmental contamination.
Last year, FDA officialsits investigation into the then anonymous grinder, suspected of being behind the poisonings, had been hampered by the limits of its jurisdiction in Ecuador.
“The FDA has limited authority over foreign ingredient suppliers who do not ship their products directly to the United States. This is because their foods undergo further manufacturing/processing before export. Thus, the FDA cannot take direct action with Negasmart or Carlos Aguilera,” the FDA said. said in its Tuesday update.
It is unclear what direct action the FDA would otherwise take if Aguilera had been a supplier under its jurisdiction. It’s also unclear what other theories the FDA is pursuing to explain why Aguilera’s ground cinnamon was contaminated with lead.
An FDA spokesperson was not immediately able to respond to a request for comment.
“My child’s favorite snack”
At least 413 cases of lead poisoning have been linked by health services topouches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The agency previously said most reported cases involved young children, with the median age of cases being around two years old.
Parent complaints to the FDA, obtained by CBS News through a Freedom of Information Act request, indicate that some children were consuming several packets of cinnamon applesauce daily before the recall.
“I can’t believe such a toxic product intended for babies, toddlers and young children has slipped through the cracks and is now affecting my child and others,” one person wrote after saying that her daughter had consumed the sachets.
The 2-year-old’s lead levels reached 25.4 micrograms per deciliter, the complaint says, well above thresholds when the CDC urges parents and doctors to take steps to combat lead poisoning.
The CDC warns that young children are particularly vulnerable to the full range of serious, long-term harm caused by lead poisoning, including damage to the brain and nervous system.
“It’s so sad to completely lose faith in a company that was once my child’s favorite snack,” they wrote.
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