The California Department of Justice announced Thursday that it had discovered dangerous levels of lead in toddler formula produced by two businesses serving state consumer, and it is suing the companies to ensure they take action to improve quality assurance testing.
"Toddler formula that we feed to our children should be safe," said Attorney General Xavier Becerra. "It certainly should not contain lead levels that make it unsafe for our children, so today, the Department of Justice is ... filing a lawsuit against two companies – Nutraceutical Corp. and Graceleigh Formulas – whose toddler formulas contain extremely high levels of lead."
As part of its mandate to do testing on substances covered by Proposition 65, the team at the Department of Justices environmental unit found levels that exceeded not only levels mandated by California law but also the mandated by less-stringent federal laws. California prosecutors found dangerous levels of lead in Nutraceutical's Peaceful Planet Toddler Supreme and Graceleigh's Sammy’s Milk free-range goat milk toddler formula.
The Bee called and emailed both Utah-based Nutraceutical and Newport Beach-based Graceleigh for comment but did not receive responses before publication.
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Becerra said his team had issued cease-and-desist orders to both companies June 1 and had filed its suit Thursday. He and senior assistant attorney general Sally Magnani said the companies appear to have complied with the order to get the products off store shelves but that their department will seek penalties and ensure both companies implement better quality assurance testing.
"We want to make sure that we take action going forward permanently to make sure the formula that these two companies sell is actually what it’s supposed, what they represent it to be and that it’s actually something our children can consume," Becerra said. "To make sure that will be the case, we have to go forward to make it happen."
Dr. Daniel McCrimons, a Sacramento-area pediatrician, and Dr. Timur Durrani, an associate clinical professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco, joined Becerra and Magnani at the news conference.
Durrani said researchers at UCSF's California Poison Control System have found that there really are no safe levels of lead, particularly for children. He urged parents to immediately return or discard the formula.
McCrimons, who treated children with lead poisoning early in his career, had this advice for parents who had purchased the two toddler formulas: "You’re definitely going to want to make sure that those children have their pediatrician do the lead levels on them to make sure it’s not at a level that requires treatment."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that it is a public health concern if levels of lead exceed 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood in adults, 5 micrograms for children under age 6. To avoid reaching dangerous levels for adults, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set a maximum daily dietary intake of no more than 6 micrograms per day. Both products exceeded that recommendation.
"These levels are high enough to pose a threat to a child’s health, especially since toddler’s consume formula on a daily basis," Becerra said. "It’s also important to note that these companies made advertising claims regarding the purity of their products. These statements obviously are inaccurate, given the lead levels of their products."
Because toddlers touch so many things and then put their hands in their mouths, they are at particular risk for lead exposure from lead paint, bare soil, herbal remedies or spices, their parents' hobby and craft materials or equipment, toys, strings of lights and potentially lead that a parent brings home from work on their clothing.
The problem with high levels of lead in something like formula is that toddlers consume so much of it and there's a cumulative effect from other hand-mouth exposures, Durrani and McCrimon said. There are typically no immediate signs of lead poisoning, however, over time, it can result in learning disabilities, behavioral problems and, at very high levels, seizures, coma, and even death.