Health department makes push to curb lead-candy sales

Don’t give kids candy with lead in it: seems like a no-brainer.
 

Nonetheless, a 10-month campaign by the San Francisco Department of Public Health convinced only about 20 percent of the 500 shops they visited to stop selling lead-laced candy.

Lead can cause slowed body growth, reduced IQ, hearing problems and behavior problems in children. It is found in dozens of candies produced in Mexico, especially chili and tamarind candy. The lead contamination may come from the soil where chilies are grown or from the factories where the candy and their wrappers are made.

A recent survey indicated that more than 70 percent of parents who shop at those stores unwittingly bought the lead-infected candies for their children, said Public Health’s Childhood Lead prevention Program Director Joe Walseth.

To address the problem, the department received a grant to outreach to more than 500 retailers in the Mission and outer Mission neighborhoods.

About 100 agreed to post posters in their stores announcing they no longer sell candy with lead in it; 56 signed agreements not to sell the candies.

Walseth said he wasn’t particularly surprised by the low response: many retailers don’t feel it’s their responsibility to keep lead out of candies, and feel that the federal government should have that responsibility.

Ideally, the federal government would successfully regulate lead in candies coming into the U.S., but resources are thin and most candies arrive in the country unchecked or tested by the Food and Drug Administration or other consumer product safety agencies, said Walseth.

Shop owners felt it would be an overwhelming task  to check every brand of candy their distributors brings in for candy.

But the campaign will continue, he said. Next spring the department will launch another outreach program, this time distributing binders with photos of all candies that are safe, and photos of others that have been recalled.

That is, he said, they’ll do it if the Public Health department isn’t forced to slash the program the next time budget cuts come down the tubes. 

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