Dollar Tree Left Recalled Applesauce Pouches on Store Shelves Too Long, FDA Says

Dollar Tree Left Recalled Applesauce Pouches on Store Shelves Too Long, FDA Says
Image: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

WEDNESDAY, June 19, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- After a recall was issued last year for lead-tainted applesauce pouches linked to illnesses in over 500 children, the discount retailer Dollar Tree failed to remove all products from store shelves for too long, federal officials said Tuesday.

In a warning letter sent to the company, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said WanaBana apple puree products remained in stores in several states through late December, two months after Dollar Tree was first told about the recall.

Officials at the Virginia-based company told the agency that it refused 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 a purchase was made.

The recall effort first began in October 2023, when WanaBana recalled its fruit pouches over concerns about lead and chromium contamination. Chromium is a carcinogen, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As a seller of the pouches, Dollar Tree was notified of the recall. However, subsequent checks of stores "revealed that you continued to offer the recalled WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree pouches on store shelves well after the recall was initiated, despite FDA’s numerous attempts to bring this serious issue to your attention," the agency said in its warning letter.

"Exposure to lead at the levels found in the WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree pouches could result in acute lead toxicity," the agency added. "Lead is toxic to humans and can affect people of any age or health status; children are particularly susceptible to lead toxicity due to their low body weight."

"Failure to adequately address this matter may result in legal action, including, without limitation, seizure and injunction," the agency concluded.

Dollar Tree officials told the Associated Press Tuesday that new management is taking steps to develop a process “for quickly and effectively executing product recalls.” The company operates more than 16,000 discount stores in 48 states.

So far, children in 44 states have had probable or confirmed cases of elevated blood lead levels after eating the applesauce pouches, according to the CDC. The outbreak was declared over in April.

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

Short term exposure to lead can cause headaches, abdominal pain/colic, vomiting and anemia. Long-term exposure could lead to irritability, lethargy, fatigue, muscle aches or muscle prickling/burning, constipation, difficulty concentrating/muscular weakness, tremor, and weight loss, the CDC says.

Because these pouches have a long shelf life, they may still be in consumers’ homes, so the FDA continues to advise that the pouches be thrown away.

More information

The CDC has more on the fruit pouch recall.

SOURCE: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, warning letter, June 11, 2024; Associated Press

What This Means For You

Dollar Tree continued to have contaminated pouches of applesauce on store shelves months after a recall was issued for the products because of potentially dangerous levels of lead.

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