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Consumer Reports Uncovers Lead in Lunchables

By Joseph Fawbush, Esq. | Last updated on

A recent investigation by Consumer Reports has revealed lead in Lunchables and other similar snack packs. The report has alarmed consumers and prompted a lawsuit against Kraft Heinz.

How safe are Lunchables? And should we be worried?

Clarifying the Science

First, let's talk about how lead and other heavy metals could find their way into food. In addition to it being naturally occurring in the environment, increased lead amounts can be found in areas where lead was once used in a wide variety of consumer, industrial, and manufacturing products. In lead-rich soil, plants themselves may contain lead and find its way into a variety of food products. Heavily processed meats may contain more lead than other kinds of foods. Imported foods may also contain unsafe levels of lead, particularly in countries with less regulation.

Due to the significant health consequences of ingesting or breathing in lead, a known neurotoxin, many states and the federal government regulate lead in all sorts of consumer products, including food.

California has the toughest standards in the country regarding lead in food. It sets the limit at 500 micrograms per day, which is one-millionth of a gram (a milligram is one-thousandth of a gram). According to the Consumer Reports article, some Lunchables, such as the "Pizza with Pepperoni" option, can contain 73% of California’s maximum allowable dose level (MADL).

If you don't like math, either, here's the simplest explanation: Consumer Reports found 0.000000365 grams of lead in the Pizza with Pepperoni Lunchable.

It's not for us at FindLaw to say whether that amount is harmful or not, but it's worth mentioning the numbers in question. The Food and Drug Administration says there is no known safe exposure to lead. Its policy is that "the FDA considers the toxicity of lead and potential exposure based on the level of lead measured in the food and estimated consumption." If it determines too much lead is in a product, particularly if it is targeted to children, it will be recalled. The amount of lead in Lunchables meets existing California regulations based on the CR investigation. There are currently no recalls on Lunchables.

Lawsuit Filed

Shortly after the consumer reports article, a lawsuit was filed in New York, alleging that Lunchables contain harmful levels of lead. This lawsuit seeks to represent consumers who purchased Lunchables and accuses Kraft Heinz of failing to inform consumers about the presence of lead.

Kraft Heinz's Response

Kraft Heinz argues that the levels of metals found are naturally occurring and all products tested are below the permissible limits. Kraft Heinz also emphasized that its products, including those served in schools, adhere to all USDA standards. It is suggesting that the report and subsequent lawsuit have caused unwarranted concern.

Health Implications of Lead Exposure

Lead exposure is a significant health risk in food, water, and paint. It can cause developmental problems and long-term health issues, particularly in children, such as reduced cognitive function and increased risk of hypertension and kidney damage.

You cannot tell if a food product has unsafe levels of lead by taste or smell. If you believe your child has been exposed to lead, the CDC recommends getting a blood test to determine if your child's blood has elevated lead levels.

If you have been exposed to a product with unsafe lead levels, you may be able to get help with medical care by filing a lawsuit.

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