Friday, January 28, 2011
WHY IS LEAD IN CANDY?
This is probably a final blog on this topic. But it is important. Most children eat candy. The last thing parents want is for that candy to be contaminated with lead.
The current revelation of high levels of lead in candy imported from Pakistan is not the first - nor will it be the last incident. Throughout the years, there have been cases in the United States of lead-contaminated imported candy from various countries. In fact, in 2009, the Food and Drug Administration advised pregnant women and young children not to eat candy imported from Mexico because of this risk.
How do you know when the lead is there? The point is, you don't. The candy tastes the same. Nor will you (or your children) have symptoms at the lower blood levels. As the levels of lead in blood rise, symptoms will start to appear. The younger the child, the more he or she will be at risk because lead affects the child's developing nerves and brain. The fetus is especially vulnerable, which is why pregnant women need to be so careful. When symptoms do appear, they are often vague and easy to dismiss - irritability, sleeplessness, anemia, headaches, loss of appetite, low energy, and so on.
How does lead get into the candy? Spices could be the cause, especially chili powder which is extensively used in candies and soft drinks to give them that extra "punch." As explained in The Safe Food Handbook (section on "Can There be Lead in our Spices?), it could happen because of the way the chilies are dried, processed or stored. So is domestic candy any safer? It is hard to tell. It may also use imported chili spices as an ingredient. But both spices and candy are tested for such unhealthy substances, although such testing cannot cover or catch everything.