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Lead tainted candy sparks US Health watchdog to take legal action

By Oliver Nieburg+

10-Aug-2012
Last updated on 19-Aug-2012 at 11:09 GMT2012-08-19T11:09:12Z

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has initiated legal proceedings against eight Californian retailers after fourteen varieties of Asian candies were found to contain dangerous levels of lead, which could be harmful to children.

Sweets from Lucky, 99 Ranch Market and other stores were found to contain illegal traces of lead in excess of permitted amounts set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Californian state.

Under California’s lead in candy law and FDA standards, candies containing more than 0.10 ppm of lead are banned.

In California any retailer knowingly selling lead tainted candy above permitted levels is liable to a $500 fine per offence.

Lab data

The lead levels found in the fourteen varieties of Asian candies came in recent lab data from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). The data is available HERE.  

Ron Chapman, director of the CDPH and state health officer, warned consumers last month not to eat Gold Plum candy imported from Taiwan, which contained two times more lead than the legal limit.

This product is imported and distributed by Roxy Trading based in California, which has initiated a voluntary recall.

Asian products

The majority of products in the CDPH lab tests were manufactured in Asia, such as Rewari candies from India. However, some candy came from developed markets, such as a variety of candy from German firm Katjes.

The source of lead contamination in each case is uncertain, according to the CDPH .

“Candy may vary greatly from sample to sample based on the manufacturing techniques and/or ingredients used, and/or the handling of the candy after its manufacture, including handling by the consumer,” said the CDPH.

Packaging on the fourteen products subject to the Center for Environmental Health’s legal proceedings indicated the candies were imported from Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan.

Health concerns

The CEH is is urging immediate action to get the products off store shelves.

CEH Executive Director Michael Green said: “It is especially worrisome when we find lead in candy, since consumers are ingesting the lead with every bite.”

“This candy may be very dangerous, particularly for children or pregnant women.”

Previous studies have linked lead exposure in children to disorders, brain and nerve damage, hearing problems, stunted growth, and digestive problems.

The legal limits for lead in candy in California were set in the 2005 Lead in Candy Bill after CEH won a legal settlement against Mars, Hershey and other manufacturers of imported candies from Mexico.

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