El Pato Hot Sauce Discontinued After Study Reveals Lead Content

Despite reiterating its safety, Walker Foods Inc. has discontinued the sale of El Pato hot sauce

A Los Angeles-based food company has stopped selling a Mexican-made hot sauce after a study revealed it contained amounts of lead that exceed FDA standards, the president and CEO of Walker Foods Inc. told NBC4 Wednesday.

“We’ve ceased sales and purchase of [El Pato Salsa Picante] two days ago in response to the study,” Robert Walker said.

Even though the company has stopped selling and buying El Pato Salsa Picante, Walker disputed the University of Nevada, Las Vegas study that said his company’s hot sauce contains dangerous amounts of lead.

“They’re only listing the lead content of one sample, not the average,” Walker said. “They only took the absolute worst, extreme sample.”

The company Thursday issued a statement -- linked here in its entirety -- explaining the decision to pull the product.

The study, which tested 25 different hot sauces, was released on July 15 and found El Pato to be one of four hot sauces that contained amounts of lead that exceeded FDA standards.

The tested sample of El Pato Salsa Picante contained 0.230 parts per million of lead, more than twice the 0.100 standard of the FDA for other food products, though no guidelines have been established specifically for hot sauces.


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Walker said his manufacturer conducted a test on the same hot sauce and found that it contained 0.02 parts per million of lead.

El Pato Salsa Picante contained an average of 0.088 ppm of lead per bottle, the study found.

Two other bottles of El Pato Salsa Picante were tested and found to have 0.018 and 0.017 ppm, according to the study.

Megan Downs, a spokeswoman for UNLV, confirmed these results, saying the researchers couldn’t replicate the excessive amount of lead found in the original bottle of El Pato hot sauce they tested.

Downs said the study was never meant to throw hot sauces off the shelf.

“There is no unsafe standard set for hot sauce. The point of the study was to create one,” she said.

Citing a part of the study which calculated what would happen to a child if they were to consume the sauce twice a day for a year, Walker said El Pato is safe for consumption.

“We don’t sell much of this product,” Walker said. “No one would eat it twice a day for a year.”

If a child were to consume the sauce twice a day for a year, they would be exposed to between 1.0 and 1.8 micrograms per deciliter of lead, according to the study. That’s significantly less than the CDC’s established limit of 10 micrograms per deciliter.

The study tested hot sauces made in Mexico and South America. El Pato, while made in Mexico, is distributed by an LA-based company, as pointed out by an NBC4 Facebook fan.

A spokeswoman for the FDA said imported and domestic products are held to the same standard.

The agency is reviewing the study’s findings to see what, if any, action is required in regulating hot sauces, Theresa Eisenman said.

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