The Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) said it has lodged the notices on 9 June, 2010, under the state’s Proposition 65 Toxic Right to Know law against 49 companies. The non-profit group said its tests had revealed lead in apple juice, grape juice, packaged pears and peaches – including baby food – and fruit cocktail.
Companies who have been cited in the notices include Del Monte Foods, Hansen Beverage Co, Motts, J M Smucker, Safeway and Dole Packaged Frozen Foods Inc.
The notices claimed a variety of foods were contaminated with enough lead in a single serving to necessitate a warning under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic
Enforcement Act of 1986- also known as Proposition 65. Under this law, the state publishes a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm. Lead has been listed as causing both since 1987 and scientist agree there is no safe exposure level to the substance.
The group said under the law, agencies were given 60 days to decide whether to launch prosecutions against the alleged violations. If, after this period, no such prosecutions had commenced, it pledged to file its own lawsuit.
ELF said the notices were based on tests carried out on 368 samples of 146 separate branded products in the five categories purchased throughout California. The body said that samples from 125 products exceeded the Proposition 65 limit of 0.5 micrograms of lead per serving. It said it targeted categories of food and beverages that, according to previous government data, had a history of “widespread presence of lead”.
The body said it showed its findings to toxicology expert Barbara G. Callahan, of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who described the lead concentrations alleged by ELF as “alarming.”
“Lead exposure among children is a particular concern because their developing bodies absorb lead at a higher rate and because children are particularly sensitive to lead’s toxic effects, including decreased I.Q.,” she added.
Lead exposure also represents a heightened risk among pregnant and nursing women because it passes from the mother to the developing foetus or infant, said the body.
“ELF has fought to protect families from lead exposures for two decades,” said ELF president Jim Wheaton. “We know the risk these exposures pose for children, and we know that our efforts can help keep children safer.”
FoodProductionDaily.com is currently awaiting responses from a number of companies and the Grocery Manufacturers Association.