High levels of the toxic heavy-metal lead have been found in several popular brands of imported Mexican hot sauces.
Therefore, University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) researchers are cautioning consumers about the possibility of lead contamination in hot sauce and salsa products.
In the pilot study, 25 bottles of imported hot sauces from Mexico and South America were purchased from local ethnic markets and grocery stores. Product selection included a variety of manufacturers and types, particularly those made in Mexico because of previous lead concerns.
Bottles were shaken for 60 seconds and analyzed for lead concentrations and pH levels. The lead content of the packaging was also evaluated. Lead content in packaging has been known to leech into and contaminate other food products.
Of the samples, 16 percent were found to be contaminated with what the researchers felt were unacceptably high levels of lead.
The brands found to have high levels of lead include: El Pato Salsa Picante, Salsa Habanera, Salsa Picante de Chile Habanero and Bufalo Salsa Clasica. All four of these brands were imported from Mexico for four separate manufacturers.
Disturbingly, researchers at UNLV said that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently has no benchmark that determines which levels of lead are unsafe in hot sauces.
Therefore, to put the results into context: they found these four brands had lead levels which exceeded 0.1 parts per million (ppm). This is the current FDA standard for safe lead levels in candy, reports ABC News.
With elevated lead levels found in some hot sauces imported from Mexico, researchers are urging for enforceable screening standards, even though there is no known safe level for lead exposure.
Lead is a highly poisonous metal. Lead poisoning can affect almost every organ in the body. The main target for lead toxicity is the nervous system. Long-term exposure to lead can cause nephropathy, and colic-like abdominal pains. It can also cause weakness in fingers, wrists, or ankles, and increase blood pressure.
Lead is absorbed faster by children than adults. In young children, lead poisoning has been known to cause learning disabilities/brain damage, behavioral problems, seizures, kidney damage, comas and death.
Further testing is expected to continue, as the UNLV team helps the FDA to come up with a permissibly safe level of lead content for hot sauces.
The results were published in a recent edition of the Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part B.
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