Fruit pouch manufacturer sued for ‘extremely high’ levels of lead

A family with two North Carolina children who were exposed to fruit pouches that contained “extremely high” levels of lead have filed a lawsuit against the companies that made and sold those pouches.

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On Jan. 25, attorneys filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree pouches on behalf of those parents, alleging the fruit pouches caused lead poisoning.

According to court documents, North Carolina parents Nicole Peterson and Thomas Duong said they began purchasing the pouches for their two children, both under the age of 4, from their local Dollar Tree in February 2023.

The health-conscious parents said they relied on package and label messaging that stated the products were “USDA Organic” and “additive-free.”

“The CDC has explicitly said – and this has been known for decades – that there is no safe level of lead in children,” said Motley Rice attorney Nicholas Williams, who represents the Hickory family that is suing WanaBana and Dollar Tree. “And lead exposure, what’s scary about it, is that its injuries manifest in silence.”

At the children’s annual checkup exams, routine blood tests discovered elevated blood lead levels in the children. Follow-up testing several weeks later revealed that their elevated blood levels had nearly doubled.

“After that, the parents -- with the advice of pediatricians and physicians and public health agencies -- enacted what is called an elimination diet. They discovered that the only things that the kids were consuming that the parents weren’t consuming were the applesauce pouches produced by WanaBana,” said Williams.

After ruling out other sources, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services became involved, analyzing numerous lots of WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree as part of their investigation and discovering extremely high concentrations of lead.

“This is a nightmare no parent should ever face. Knowing that our children will have to live with the effects of lead poisoning for the rest of their lives is heart-wrenching. This serves as a wake-up call about the dangers that can lurk in everyday food products,” the parents said.

The lawsuit alleges that the pouches caused lifelong injuries and caused the need for continued medical treatment for their two toddler children.

The parents said their children suffered from the effects of lead poisoning, resulting in injuries that will require a lifetime of ongoing medical monitoring for potential developmental and health issues, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit alleges that WanaBana and Dollar Tree defendants knew or should have known that these products presented a substantial and unreasonable risk of harm to the public. It also alleges that a recent report from the FDA found that WanaBana did not test for heavy metals in the pouches.

“This lawsuit underscores the critical importance of corporate responsibility in ensuring product safety, especially when the product’s end consumers are vulnerable children. Our clients’ children now face lifelong health challenges and medical needs. We are determined to hold WanaBana, Dollar Tree Inc., and any other companies within the supply chain of this toxic product, accountable for any part they played in this devastating lead poisoning situation, a situation we argue was avoidable,” stated Motley Rice attorney Nicholas Williams.

“They seem to be doing well,” Williams said of the children. “Their blood lead levels seem to be subsiding, but their blood-lead levels were so high they need to be continued to be monitored into adults.”

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