Contaminated applesauce is responsible for more than 200 cases of lead poisoning that have occurred across 33 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent said on Tuesday.
That number is an increase from the 125 cases the CDC said were reported as of last week. Health officials are currently investigating these cases further.
In addition to those efforts, the Food and Drug Administration is conducting an investigation into what the source of the poisoning is. Thus far, it’s been blamed on tainted cinnamon that was mixed with applesauce in packets meant for kids.
The FDA has said it’s faced “limited jurisdiction” from Ecuador, a place the agency says it doesn’t have the ability to take “direct action” in its efforts to investigate people who are suspected of being the cause of the poisonings.
States that reported new cases this week include Washington, Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Montana, Missouri, Michigan, Maine, Georgia, Arkansas and Alabama. That’s in addition to the 20 or so other states that reported cases before this week.
A spokesperson for the CDC said it was withholding counts for each individual state because of patient privacy concerns.
State health departments have been urged to investigate lead poisoning cases, many of which could go undetected should people who eat the tainted applesauce don’t get a blood test, which would be necessary to detect the toxic heavy metal in their system.
Many of the cases reported before this week have been from young children. These kids are particularly vulnerable to lead poisonings, which could cause developmental issues.
Some of these young children eat multiple packets of this applesauce every day.
According to the investigation being conducted by the CDC, the median age for those who have been reported to have lead poisoning thus far “is nearly two years old, according to an agency spokesperson.
Some reports of poisonings have come in for children 9 years old, though.
As the spokesperson said to media outlets in an email:
“It’s important that parents contact their healthcare provider about getting a blood test for lead if you or your children may have consumed recalled products, regardless of age.”
Three different brands of cinnamon applesauce pouches have been recalled – Schnucks, Weis and WanaBana. AustroFood is the manufacturer of all those brands.
On Monday, the company said it would reimburse customers as much as $150 so they could get lead tests for anyone in their family who consumed their products.
One problem complicating matters is that officials have had trouble getting these pouches off of shelves in stores, even though the initial recall happened late in October.
The FDA has reported that they’ve received word that Dollar Tree stores are still carrying the pouches on their shelves. That has prompted local and state health officials to go through various locations of the store to see for themselves whether the product is still available for sale.
As the agency said on Tuesday:
“As of December 19, FDA also received a report that recalled WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Puree product (including recalled three packs) is on shelves at Family Dollar/Dollar Tree combination stores. This product should not be available for sale and consumers should not purchase this product.”