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The FDA issues an alert for 6 brands of cinnamon possibly containing lead

This combination of photos provided by the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday shows cinnamon products sold in U.S. discount stores which contain elevated levels of lead.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration via AP
This combination of photos provided by the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday shows cinnamon products sold in U.S. discount stores which contain elevated levels of lead.

Updated March 7, 2024 at 10:54 AM ET

The Food and Drug Administration has issued an advisory for six brands of cinnamon due to possibly containing lead.

La Fiesta, Marcum, MK, Swad, Supreme Tradition and El Chilar brands of ground cinnamon are typically sold at discount stores and contain between 2.03 and 3.4 parts per million of lead, the agency said.

No illnesses have been linked to the products.

The FDA said it has recommended voluntary recalls of the cinnamon products, but one manufacturer, MTCI, the distributor of MK cinnamon, has not responded to the agency's correspondence.

Which brands are covered by the recall?

Consumers should discard the impacted cinnamon products, which include:

  • La Fiesta brand, lot number 25033, sold at La Superior Supermercados.
  • Marcum brand, best by dates Oct. 16, 2025 and April 6, 2025, sold at Save A Lot.
  • MK brand, no lot number provided.
  • Swad brand, lot number KX21223, sold at Patel Brothers.
  • Supreme Tradition brand, best by dates include Sep. 29, 2025; April 17, 2025; Dec. 19, 2025; April 12, 2025; Aug. 24, 2025; April 21, 2025; and Sep. 22, 2025, sold at Dollar Tree and Family Dollar. 
  • El Chilar brand, lot numbers F275EX1026 and D300EX1024, sold at La Joya Morelense in Baltimore.

"It is important to note that the lead levels found in the ground cinnamon products listed above are significantly lower than lead levels in cinnamon in the recalled apple sauce pouches removed from the market this past fall," the FDA said. But, it added, the products "could be unsafe for prolonged use."

In children, long-term exposure to high levels of lead can lead to slower development, brain and nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems and hearing and speech problems. Adults can experience similar impacts, but at much higher amounts of lead, according to the CDC.

What about cinnamon products in an earlier recall?

Beginning in October 2023, the FDA recalled several brands of cinnamon-flavored applesauce pouches, including WanaBana, Weis and Schnucks for possibly having lead. The agency has been investigatingto see if the products were contaminated on purpose.

"Historically, lead chromate has been illegally added to certain spices" to increase their weight and enhance their color, "which increases the monetary value of the adulterated spices," the FDA said in a recent update on that inquiry. "FDA's leading hypothesis remains that this was likely an act of economically motivated adulteration."

The CDC says it has received reports of 468 confirmed, probable or suspected cases of people with elevated blood lead levels from health departments in 44 states.

The FDA says lead contamination was traced to products from a cinnamon processing company called Carlos Aguilera of Ecuador — where regulators say the company in question is no longer operating. Ecuadorian officials also say unprocessed cinnamon sticks imported from Sri Lanka did not contain lead, according to the agency.

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Ayana Archie
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.