Study Finds Dangerous Levels of Lead in Hot Sauces From Mexico

Four of the 25 sauces studied contained more than the FDA's standard for lead in food

Hot sauces sold in the U.S. have been found to contain concentrations of lead that exceed the FDA's standards, according to a new study from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Researchers examined 25 brands from Mexico and South America, and determined that four of them contain more lead than the FDA’s 0.1 parts-per-million standard allows for in candy and dried fruit.

UPDATE: El Pato Hot Sauce Discontinued in Wake of Study

The four sauces are made by companies in Mexico and exported to the U.S.:

  • Castillo Salsa Habanera
  • El Pato
  • Bufalo Salsa Clasica
  • El Yuchateco Salsa Picante de Chile Habanero

One of the sauces, El Pato, is made in Mexico and distributed by Los Angeles-based Walker Foods, Inc., the company's president and CEO told NBC4 Wednesday.

Researchers are calling on the FDA and USDA to establish standard guidelines for products imported from Mexico, including hot sauces.

“Without enforceable standards for hot sauces and condiments, manufacturers will not be encouraged to improve quality control measures designed to reduce the amounts of lead and other toxic elements before exporting," Shawn Gerstenberge, a UNLV researcher, said in a news release issued July 15 titled "Study: The Hidden Dangers of Hot Sauce."

The results of the study were published in the scientific journal Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part B.

Though the FDA has set some standards for lead in food, the study notes there is no known safe level of lead exposure.

Lead, a toxic metal, is commonly found in homes and can cause kidney problems and high blood pressure in adults. Children exposed to lead may suffer from learning disabilities or delayed development, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

CLARIFICATION, July 24, 2013: This story has been updated to reflect that El Pato’s hot sauce is made in Mexico, then exported to and distributed from Los Angeles-based Walker Foods Inc., said Robert Walker, president and CEO of Walker Foods Inc.

CLARIFICATION, July 25, 2013: University of Nevada, Las Vegas researcher Shawn Gerstenberger says El Yuchateco is among the four hot sauces studied and found to contain levels of lead that exceed FDA standards, even though the brand was not explicitly named in the study. "The brand name was omitted from the study," he said in a statement. "UNLV will be contacting the editors of the Journal of the Environmental Science and Health to add the brand name."

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