The US Food and Drug Administration names the likely source of lead in cinnamon-tainted apple juice bags

The US Food and Drug Administration names the likely source of lead in cinnamon-tainted apple juice bags

Recalled bags of WanaBana cinnamon apple juice potentially linked to lead poisoning in hundreds of people across the United States were likely contaminated by a single cinnamon processor in Ecuador, the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

Ecuadorian officials have identified Carlos Aguilera, a cinnamon processor, as the “likely source of contamination” in the apple juice bags, the FDA said.

Aguilera obtained cinnamon from Sri Lanka. According to Ecuadorian officials, the cinnamon sticks were free of lead contamination before they were processed.

Aguilera is just one part of the supply chain for Florida-based WanaBana cinnamon apple juice pouches. The bags are manufactured at a facility in Ecuador called Austrofoods, which imports the cinnamon from another Ecuadorian supplier called Negasmart. Negasmart, in turn, obtained cinnamon from Aguilera, according to Ecuadorian officials.

The FDA said investigations and legal proceedings by officials in Ecuador to determine ultimate responsibility for the contamination are still ongoing, but Aguilera’s business is not operating at this time.

In an interview with the Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo, Aguilera denied the accusation, saying he had not contaminated the cinnamon. He said that officials took samples of products manufactured in three of his factories and did not find lead.

WanaBana did not immediately respond to a request for comment. NBC News was unable to reach Negasmart.

WanaBana previously said it was working with the US Food and Drug Administration on its investigation.

Since late last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been investigating lead contamination in WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit puree, along with two other products made by WanaBana: Schnucks apple sauce sachets with cinnamon and Weis cinnamon apple sauce. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identified cinnamon as the most likely source of contamination and the agency said the contamination was likely intentional.

As of February 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had received 413 reports of high blood lead levels associated with bags in 43 states.

It is not clear what regulatory or legal action, if any, the FDA could take against Aguilera. The US Food and Drug Administration did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

However, the agency said in a statement Tuesday that it has “limited authority” over foreign component suppliers that do not ship products directly to the United States, meaning the agency “cannot take direct action” against Negasmart or Aguilera. It is Austrofoods, not Negasmart or Aguilera, that ultimately ships the products to the United States

An FDA spokesperson told NBC News last week that if the agency determines that apple juice pouches were adulterated, it could take regulatory action, which could include “working with the manufacturer to resolve the issue, and taking steps to block the product, as appropriate.” From entering or remaining in the American market.

The FDA has indicated that it is working with US Customs and Border Protection to inspect any Negasmart or cinnamon products imported from Ecuador.

The FDA has so far confirmed that Negasmart does not ship products directly to the United States, and neither do Negasmart customers, the spokesperson said. The statement did not mention Aguilera’s products.

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