A study conducted by researchers at UC San Francisco found that 34 percent of the candy that generated health alerts was imported from Mexico. (Courtesy Photo)

A study conducted by researchers at UC San Francisco found that 34 percent of the candy that generated health alerts was imported from Mexico. (Courtesy Photo)

UCSF study: State mandated lead testing bumps imported candy to top of contaminated food list

Lead tested in imported candy triggered more health alerts issued statewide in a 14-year-period than were issued for Salmonella, E. coli and Botulism combined — the top three sources of foodborne contamination.

A study conducted by researchers at UC San Francisco and the California Department of Public Health published today shows that 60 of a total of 164 alerts for food contamination issued by state public health officials between 2001 and 2014 resulted from lead contamination.

Of those 60 alerts, 55 pertained to imported foods, with almost all alerts (96.6 percent) issued to warn consumers about imported candy. The study’s results come in the midst of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week and as households nationwide prepare for Halloween.

The study intended to analyze the effectiveness of a 2006 law enacted in California that mandated a community surveillance program, making lead-testing in candy more widespread.

To evaluate the program’s outcomes, the group of researchers analyzed the number of CDPH health alerts issued six years prior to the law’s enactment and in the seven years after it was widely implemented.

Their findings showed a significant increase in health alerts issued after the program was mandated. From 2008 to 2014, health alerts related to lead found in candy comprised nearly 42 percent of a total of 116 alerts issued. In comparison, just 22 percent of 48 total lead contamination health alerts issued between 2001 and 2006 were traced to candy.

The study also found that almost all of the candy flagged for lead was imported. In the 14-year period analyzed, most of the candy that warranted health alerts was imported from Mexico (34 percent), China (24 percent) and India (20 percent).

According to the study, some 10,000 children under age 6 in California are poisoned by lead each year. Prior to the candy surveillance program, efforts to reduce children’s exposure focused on lead found in gasoline, industrially contaminated soil or lead-based paint.

The study points to imported candy as being a potential public health risk for lead poisoning in California, but researchers warned that because it is not comprehensive, the lead contamination in candy and other products on the market could actually be much higher.

“As more lead sources are identified, we must develop prevention approaches for all of them, and not just replace one prevention approach with another,” Dr. Margaret Handley, a professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UCSF and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement.

Still, the policy changes mandating active monitoring of candy for lead contamination can result in recalls before they are consumed, Handley said.
Bay Area News

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Sheriff candidate Paul Miyamoto in a meeting with the Examiner editorial board on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
New shelter-in-place order gives tenants a temporary reprieve from eviction

Sheriff’s Department resumed regular enforcement this week for the first time since March

Under stay-at-home orders effective today in San Francisco, outdoor dining is not allowed, and there are new limits regarding the number of people that can be indoors at essential businesses. <ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Bay Area counties to shut down outdoor dining, non-essential businesses

Regional stay-at-home order to take effect Sunday, sooner than statewide order announced Thursday

Former Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant received his 2017-18 Championship ring at Oracle Arena in Oakland on Oct. 16, 2018. Durant, now playing with the Brooklyn Nets, will play against his former team at Chase Center in February. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Kevin Durant to face former teammates at Chase Center in February

Schedule released Friday calls for Warriors to play Christmas and New Year’s Day games

San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert’s (31) return from injury last week was key for the team’s offense. <ins>(Chris Victorio/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
49ers fighting for final NFC wild-card spot in Monday’s game against the Bills

Bills at 49ers When: Monday, 5:15 p.m. Where: State Farm Stadium, Glendale,… Continue reading

The Smashing Pumpkins’ 2020 recording is the 20-song “CYR.” (Courtesy photo)
Billy Corgan continues to confound expectations

Smashing Pumpkins release retro-sounding ‘CYR’

Most Read