Recalled applesauce bags likely contained lead due to a single cinnamon processor that the FDA just identified

Authorities in Ecuador have named a suspect as part of their investigation into applesauce containing lead was linked Poisonings of more than 400 Americans in 43 states, the Food and Drug Administration announced on Tuesday – but US authorities had “limited authority” to take action against him.

Ecuador authorities allege that Carlos Aguilera, a cinnamon miller in Ecuador, is “the likely source” of the poisonings, the FDA said said in an update, noting that the investigation by the The National Agency for Health Regulation, Control and Surveillance and court proceedings to determine responsibility for the contamination are still ongoing.

U.S. authorities have said for months that they suspect the lead poisoning may have been intentional “economically motivated adulteration” of the cinnamon used in applesauce.

“FDA’s investigation is ongoing to determine the location of the contamination and whether additional products are associated with 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 who wanted to hide defects in their products or otherwise increase sales.

Tests on cinnamon sticks that Aguilera obtained from Sri Lanka but had not yet processed were tested by Ecuador and were not contaminated with lead, the FDA said.

The FDA previously said that the ground cinnamon that ended up in WanaBana’s applesauce, supplied by Ecuadorian retailer Negasmart, tested for lead and chromium contaminants at “extremely high” levels, well above what experts consider safe.

In December, the FDA quoted WanaBana for not testing its cinnamon applesauce sachets for heavy metals. The agency said the applesauce maker should have taken steps to mitigate the risk that it was buying cinnamon for its products…

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