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FDA Issues Warning About Lead in Family Dollar and Dollar Tree Cinnamon

The agency conducted an investigation of ground cinnamon sold at discount stores.

Unless you're particularly picky with your brands, dollar stores are ideal when you need to stock up on spices. While these might run you up to $5 at your local grocery store, you can get similar options for a fraction of the price, often without sacrificing taste. But according to a new alert from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), several cinnamon products sold at discount stores contain lead, including a variety found at Dollar Tree and Family Dollar. Read on to find out which brands the agency urges you not to buy—and which have already been recalled.

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Six brands of cinnamon contain higher levels of lead.

ground cinnamon sold at dollar tree

In a March 6 alert, the FDA announced that six brands of ground cinnamon were found to have "elevated levels of lead," ranging between 2.03 to 3.4 parts per million (ppm). The agency warned that "prolonged exposure to these products may be unsafe."

Affected brands include Supreme Tradition ground cinnamon (sold at Dollar Tree and Family Dollar); Marcum (sold at Save A Lot); El Chilar (sold at La Joya Morelense); Swad (sold at Patel Brothers); MK (sold at SF Supermarket); and La Fiesta (sold at La Superior SuperMercados). Complete lot codes, lead concentration levels, best-by dates, and distributor information can be found in the FDA alert.

The agency began looking into ground cinnamon products from discount stores after the Oct. 2023 recall of cinnamon apple puree and applesauce products, which were also found to contain elevated lead levels. However, the FDA noted that the lead levels in the ground cinnamon products "are significantly lower" than those found in the applesauce pouches.

Consumers were instructed to throw away and avoid purchasing these products. The FDA also stressed that they have a long shelf life, meaning you'll want to check your home and pantry if you don't purchase spices often.

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The FDA recommended a recall of these products.

recalled marcum cinnamon

The FDA recommended that companies voluntarily recall these ground cinnamon products, and some varieties were already pulled this week. Recalled cinnamons include the Swad, El Chilar, Supreme Tradition, and Marcum brands mentioned in the alert.

The FDA noted that pulling these products is especially important because cinnamon is used in several foods eaten by young children—and kids under six are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning, according to the Mayo Clinic.

"Consistent with the agency's Closer to Zero initiative, which focuses on reducing childhood exposure to lead, the agency is recommending voluntary recall of the products listed above because prolonged exposure to the products may be unsafe," the alert reads. "Removing the ground cinnamon products in this alert from the market will prevent them from contributing elevated amounts of lead to the diets of children."

In a statement to Best Life, a spokesperson for Dollar Tree (which owns Family Dollar) stressed that the company "takes this situation very seriously" and is "committed to the safety and integrity of the products [they] sell."

The spokesperson confirmed that in response to the recall initiated by Colonna Brothers, Supreme Tradition cinnamon has been removed from Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores, and customers can return products for a refund.

RELATED: FDA Says Dollar Tree Is Still Selling Recalled Food to Shoppers.

You can be exposed to lead from other sources.

man scraping lead paint in hazmat suit
Jamie Hooper / Shutterstock

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common sources of lead poisoning in kids come from lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust, while adults who work with batteries, perform home renovations, or work in auto repair shops are at risk of being exposed. Per the Mayo Clinic, even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems, but high levels of lead poisoning can be fatal.

"Based on FDA's assessment, prolonged exposure to these products may be unsafe and could contribute to elevated levels of lead in the blood," the FDA alert reads. "Long-term exposure (months to years) to elevated levels of lead in the diet could contribute to adverse health effects, particularly for the portion of the population that may already have elevated blood lead levels from other exposures to lead."

According to the alert, young children "are particularly vulnerable" to the harmful effects of lead exposure due to their smaller body, as well as their faster metabolism and growth. Exposure to high levels of lead while in the womb, as an infant, or in early childhood, can result in "neurological effects such as learning disabilities, behavior difficulties, and lowered IQ," the FDA warns.

Symptoms and adverse health effects from consuming lead-contaminated food vary depending on age, length, amount, and frequency of exposure, as well as exposure to other sources of lead.

Don't hesitate to call your doctor if you have concerns.

woman having telehealth visit with male doctor on ipad

To date, no illnesses or adverse events have been reported related to the cinnamon products, per the March 6 alert. However, if you do notice symptoms or suspect someone has been exposed to elevated levels of lead, you should talk to your healthcare provider, according to the FDA.

At the same time, the agency pointed out "most people have no obvious immediate symptoms of lead exposure."

Complaints, cases of exposure, and adverse events should be reported to the FDA's MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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