There have been several recalls over the last few weeks issued for a couple of different spices. The CDC has published recalls for both ground turmeric and curry powder. All of these recalls are the result of routine testing revealing the presence of elevated lead levels. Even a small amount of lead can lead to problems, as lead accumulates in the body over a period. Lead poisoning can cause a myriad of health issues. The FDA has not set a limit on the amount of lead in spices. However, there is a limit of .1 parts per million (PPM) in candy, and if lead levels in water are over .015 PPM, treatment for the water is necessary. Health officials have recommended that any consumers who find recalled products in their homes should immediately dispose of the products in order to prevent any lead poisoning.

The CDC and others have recalled ground turmeric several times due to elevated lead levels. The first of these recalls came on July 28, 2016. On that day, Gel Spice, Inc. issued a recall for only one lot of their Fresh Finds brand Ground Turmeric Powder. The Gel Spice, Inc. packaged the recalled products in 3.75 ounce PET jars. Products affected by the recall have the “Best By” date of either B/B 03/08/19 or B/B 05/18/19. One can find the “Best by” date on the neck of the package. One can also identify the recalled products by the UPC code 8102601230. The CDC issued the recall after routine testing done by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets revealed elevated lead levels. Distribution of the recalled turmeric powder also included sales to retailers, such as Big Lots Stores, across the United States. There have been no illnesses associated with this recall.

The JM Exotic Foods Inc. issued another recall on August 5, 2016. In a statement provided in the recall, JM Exotic Foods Inc. stated that the recall was occurring because turmeric from their supplier had tested positive for lead. The notices does not name a supplier though, so it is unclear whether this recall links to the Gel Spice, Inc. recall. The item under recall, Ground Turmeric, can be identified by the Item Number 1153. There were two different lot numbers affected by the recall, Lot# 16131185 and Lot# 16165184. Recalled products were packaged in clear, 4 ounce clamshell packages. The products involved in the recall were only sold to a farmer’s market in Doraville, Georgia. Recalled products were available for purchase between May and August, 2016.

Also on August 5, Gel Spice Inc. expanded their recall of turmeric powder. The recall was expanded to include several more brands and lots. While the original recall only affected the Fresh Finds brand, the expansion affects many more brands, including Spice Select, Market Pantry, Gel, Clear Value, Lieber’s, and Spice Supreme. The FDA provides a full list of the seven products added to the recall here. Distributers shipped these products to various retailers across the United States. There have been no illnesses associated with the expanded recall.

Turmeric was not the only spice to have elevated lead levels. On August 12, 2016, another lead-related recall was issued, this time for curry powder. Oriental Packing Co., Inc., of Miami, Florida issued a recall for about 377,000 pounds of blended curry products. Brands affected by the recall include Blue Mountain Country, Jamaica, Jamaica Choice, Ocho-Rios, Oriental, Grace, and Grace Caribbean. There were many different varieties of curry powder recalled, including mild, hot, and Jamaican Jerk seasoning. The FDA provides a full list of recalled products here. Recalled products were distributed to retail stores nationwide, and were also sold online. The recalled curry powder was packaged in glass and plastic bottles, and in sizes including 2 ounces, 4 ounces, 6 ounces, 8 ounces, 22 ounces, and 5 pounds. No illnesses have been reported in relation to this recall.

Lead has been in the news quite a bit recently, even making it on to the national news earlier this year. In the spring of 2016, reports of high levels of lead came out of Flint, Michigan. The Flint city government disconnected from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department in 2014, opting to use water from the Flint River. The economic issues in the city of Flint forced the switch. It was much cheaper to use the water of the Flint River than it was to use water from Detroit. Eventually, many people began to experience the symptoms of lead poisoning. Much of the lead probably came from lead piping used by the city. The city of Flint, after finding lead in the water supply, began to replace as many as 8,000 pipes. The situation continued to deteriorate. Then, more than 500 Flint residents filed a class action lawsuit was filed against the EPA.

Lead poisoning can be a very serious thing. Lead, over repeated exposure, can build up in the body. Lead is contained in a variety of sources, including the air, water, soil, and building materials used in home renovation or auto repair. Contractors also used lead in paint and pipes for many years. There are several risk factors may increase the chances of someone getting lead poisoning. Children and infants are at an increased risk of developing lead poisoning because they are much more likely to have accidental exposure to lead. Older homes typically expose their residents to lead based paint. Even though the government banned lead based paint in the 1970s, there may still be remnants of lead based paint in the house. The easiest way to prevent lead poisoning is to limit exposure to lead.

Lead poisoning in children is especially dangerous. High levels of lead can lead to developmental delay, learning difficulties, loss of appetite, irritability, fatigue, abdominal pain, weight loss, vomiting, hearing loss, and constipation. Adults with lead poisoning can expect symptoms including high blood pressure, constipation, and abdominal pain, joint pains, muscle pain, decline in mental function, headache, mood disorders, and memory loss. Lead poisoning can be hard to detect at first. Even someone that looks healthy may be suffering from lead poisoning. The test for lead poisoning is a blood test. There are different treatments for lead poisoning depending on the level of lead in the blood. If the medical provider finds low levels of lead in the blood, then simply removing the source of contamination will allow lead levels to reduce naturally. In more severe cases, though, someone suffering lead poisoning may need chelation or EDTA therapy. If you or a loved one begins to show the symptoms of lead poisoning, contact a medical professional.

Sources:

http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm515328.htm

http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm513844.htm?source=govdelivery&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm515105.htm

http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm516541.htm

http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/04/us/flint-water-crisis-fast-facts/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lead-poisoning/basics/definition/con-20035487