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At least 22 toddlers made sick by fruit pouches with lead concerns, FDA and CDC say

The FDA and CDC said at least 22 children between ages 1-3 were reported to have elevated blood lead levels after consuming recalled cinnamon applesauce fruit pouch products.

U.S. health officials are warning parents to be on the lookout after at least 22 toddlers got sick after consuming recalled fruit pouches in 14 states. 

The Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state health authorities said there are at least 22 cases of children between ages 1-3 who have high blood lead levels after eating WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree pouches. 

The illnesses were reported after the FDA issued a safety alert for several brands of products, including Schnucks cinnamon-flavored applesauce pouches and variety pack and certain Weis cinnamon applesauce pouches, which were subject to recall. 

On Oct. 28, the FDA warned parents and caregivers not to buy of feed WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree Pouches to toddlers and young children because of elevated lead levels. 

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An FDA investigation in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) opened after four children were reported to have elevated blood lead levels, which the agencies said indicated potential acute lead toxicity. FDA and state partners are conducting further testing and collecting additional product samples of fruit purée and applesauce pouches. So far, official say testing has not shown elevated levels of lead in non-recalled products.

As part of their probe, NCDHHS analyzed multiple lots of WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree, detecting extremely high concentrations of lead.

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The FDA has reviewed and supports NCDHHS’s analytical findings and found that analytical results at this level could result in acute toxicity.

On Oct. 31, Wanabana of Coral Gables, Florida, initiated a voluntary recall of all WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree Pouches. The company expanded its recall announcement on Nov. 9 to include information on recalled Schnucks and Weis cinnamon applesauce pouches, FDA said. 

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The recall goes beyond the borders of the U.S. Information Wanabana provided to the FDA shows the recalled product was also distributed to Cuba and the United Arab Emirates.

The CDC said lead toxicity targets the central nervous system. "Children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults because their nervous systems are still developing," according to the CDC. 

"Children also tend to absorb a higher fraction of ingested lead than adults. Although children with lead exposure may have no apparent acute symptoms, even low levels of lead have been associated with learning, behavioral, and cognitive deficits," the agency said. 

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A child who has been exposed to large amounts of lead may develop lead poisoning, with symptoms including anemia, stomach pain, weakness and seizures which may result in brain damage. 

The CDC gave two recommendations for parents: Do not buy, eat, sell or serve recalled cinnamon-containing applesauce pouch products because they may contain lead. And parents and caregivers of children who may have consumed the recalled products should contact their child's healthcare provider about getting a blood test for lead. 

Fox Business' Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.

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