Dollar Tree left lead-tainted applesauce pouches on store shelves for weeks after recall, FDA says

Dollar Tree failed to effectively recall lead-tainted applesauce pouches linked to reports of illness in more than 500 children, leaving the products on some stores shelves for two months, the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

The FDA sent a warning letter to Dollar Tree this month and placed Negasmart, the Ecuadorian distributor of WanaBana apple cinnamon pouches, under import alerts following the October 2023 recall of the products found to be contaminated with “extremely high” levels of lead and chromium.

Children in 44 states had probable or confirmed cases of elevated blood lead levels after eating the applesauce pouches marketed for toddlers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The outbreak was declared over in April.

FDA officials sent a warning letter to Dollar Tree Inc. last week saying the WanaBana apple puree products remained on store shelves in several states through late December, two months after the firm was told about the recall. Officials at the Chesapeake, Virginia-based company had said they disallowed sales of the products at registers, but the FDA said that was “not an effective measure” because at least one child in Washington state ate a recalled fruit pouch in a store before an attempted purchase.

Dollar Tree officials said in an email Tuesday that the company is operating under new management and is taking steps to bolster its process “for quickly and effectively executing product recalls.” The company operates more than 16,000 discount stores in 48 states.

Negasmart was placed under multiple import alerts this month, even though FDA officials said they had no indication that the firm is attempting to import products into the U.S. The action is to ensure that any attempt by the firm to import products would be “flagged” by FDA reviewers and prevented from reaching consumers. Tests showed that cinnamon tested from the plant had lead levels more than 2,000 times higher than a maximum level proposed by the FDA.

Anyone who consumed the recalled pouches should consult with a health care provider, the CDC said. There is no safe level of lead consumption, which can cause serious learning and behavior problems, the agency emphasized.

The pouches include those sold under the WanaBana brand at Dollar Tree stores and online and under the Schnucks and Weis brands in stores. Because they have a long shelf life, they may still be in consumers’ homes. Consumers should not eat or serve the pouches and should discard them.


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Jonel Aleccia, The Associated Press