Lab Matters Summer 2024 | Page 10


North Carolina ’ s Coordinated Response to Lead Contamination in Food : An Insider ’ s Perspective

By Marc Komlos , supervisor , Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory , North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health
The NC State Laboratory of Public Health Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory tests WanaBana TM fruit puree samples from elevated blood lead investigations . Photo : NCDHHS
Periodically , the media reminds us of our potential exposure to contaminants in our food supply . These stories make us realize the importance of robust safeguards for the vastly complex system through which we import , manufacture and distribute food . Specifically , last year ’ s detection of lead contamination in the WanaBana TM brand of apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches by the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health ( NCSLPH ) catalyzed an international investigation involving multiple recalled products derived from the same cinnamon source in South America . This investigation highlights a trend that finds foods and spices as a more common source of lead exposure where , traditionally , a public health laboratory and its partners may have focused on drinking water , paint , dust and soil .
Lead is Often Detected in Foods and Spices
The first three WanaBana fruit puree samples were collected from two separate households and received by the NCSLPH ’ s Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory without any prior indication that these would be consequential samples . Most elevated blood lead investigations involve a range of sample matrices , and the inclusion of foods and spices is routine . However , these samples were associated with a unique brand name that the laboratory had not seen before . Upon issuing the reports for these samples , I thought it was noteworthy that the sample flavor labeled as “ apple cinnamon ” was above the US Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) reportable 1 ppm limit referenced by the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program ( NCCLPPP ). Since the laboratory has processed cinnamon spice samples as part of lead investigations previously , I was aware that cinnamon could be a contaminating source . This product seemed to be worthy of more attention .
Marc Komlos , Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory Supervisor . Photo : NCDHHS
8 LAB MATTERS Summer 2024
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