Recall alert: Risk of lead poisoning and injuries from lead in apple products and metal in chicken nuggets

By Lisa Marie Basile | Fact-checked by Davi Sherman
Published November 10, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Tyson products— specifically the company’s Fully Cooked Chicken “Fun Nuggets”—are being recalled due to contamination from metal pieces.

  • Apple products made by several brands (Weis, WanaBana, and Shnucks), including kids’ pouches, have been recalled after the FDA received reports that four children who consumed the products presented with elevated blood lead levels.

A slew of recent recalls have caused buyers to avoid certain popular products, including lead-contaminated pureed fruit pouches for kids and chicken nuggets containing pieces of metal. Here's what you need to know.

According to an announcement by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Tyson Foods, Inc. is recalling nearly 30,000 pounds of chicken product containing “extraneous materials,” specifically metal pieces.[] 

A specific product is being recalled: 29-ounce plastic bag packages (marked with code “P-7211”) of “Tyson FULLY COOKED FUN NUGGETS BREADED SHAPED CHICKEN PATTIES.” The product has a Best If Used By date of SEP 04, 2024, and includes lot codes: 

  • 2483BRV0207

  • 2483BRV0208

  • 2483BRV0209

  • 2483BRV0210

The product was shipped to Alabama, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin for distribution to retail stores. 

The FSIS says that there was one reported “minor oral injury” associated with consumption of the product. The agency is also concerned that some buyers may have the chicken stored in their freezers, presumably for consumption at a later date.[] 

According to a case report published in BMC Research Notes, ingesting foreign objects is quite common, but serious consequences, like intestinal perforation, are rare. Sometimes, the authors note, patients don’t even recall ingesting foreign objects. The case report suggests that clinicians keep intestinal perforation caused by ingested foreign bodies in mind when seeing a patient present with acute abdomen issues, especially if they’d recently eaten a recalled food. “It requires a high degree of suspicion and awareness on the part of the clinician,” they write.[] 

In addition to metal pieces, several apple products, the FDA reports, are being recalled by a number of companies after they received reports of “four children with elevated blood lead levels, indicating potential acute lead toxicity” following consumption.

The products include:

  • WanaBana apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches 

  • Schnucks cinnamon-flavored applesauce pouches and variety packs

  • Weis cinnamon applesauce pouches 

Buyers can purchase the Schnucks pouches at Schnucks and Eatwell Markets grocery stores, while the Weis pouches are sold at Weis grocery stores. The WanaBana products are sold at many retailers, including Amazon, Sam’s Club, local grocers, and Dollar Tree.[] 

Patients should be notified of the recalls and offered testing if they believe they have been exposed to these products.[]

What does lead contamination look like?

According to Rudolph Bedford, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, lead poisoning can present a “vague symptomatology.” However, patients may experience “increasing irritability, nausea, vomiting, headache, abdominal pain, and muscle weakness…Most notably, unexplained anemia, which occurs in the setting of many of these other symptoms,” Dr. Bedford says. “This could indicate lead toxicity.”

Dr. Bedford adds that he’s unaware of how much lead might have been in the recalled foods but that the amount might impact if and how sick a child becomes. “Certainly, in a pediatric population, if a child comes in with pain or headache with nausea or vomiting, I think most pediatricians should start thinking that one should obtain a lead level,” he says. 

According to Marc Grella, MD, a primary care pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA, “Lead poisoning often affects children more severely than adults because their brains and organs are still developing and because the dose of lead is higher per pound of body weight than for adults. Lead can affect the brain and mental development, blood production, kidney function, and the GI tract.” 

Dr. Grella says that most states test children specifically for lead contamination, as it can have “long-lasting effects on our most vulnerable: babies and children.”

While lead poisoning from contaminated foods is not something Dr. Bedford sees often, he’s seen it in a few patients after they presented with acute mental status change. “They have a mood shift, irritability, and muscle weakness…and all of a sudden they become encephalopathic,” he adds. 

This is more likely due to repeated and long-term exposure—like those who often paint with products containing lead or who drink lead-contaminated water, he adds. 

According to StatPearls, this lead encephalopathy can occur as a late-stage complication of lead intoxication. Levels of lead may be in excess if they reach 80 to 100 micrograms/dL, the authors note. “At such concentrations, lead crosses the blood-brain barrier and ultimately leads to the breakdown of cerebrovascular endothelium, causing increased capillary leak and edema,” the authors continue.[] 

Dr. Bedford says he commonly sees patients with a bacterial infection from food poisoning: “Patients will have diarrhea, pain, or fever after eating. We test for bacteria and treat accordingly. Most bacterial infections from food poisoning resolve and are self-limiting, but some will require antibiotic therapy.” “Lead poisoning is quite frankly unusual,” he adds.

If possible, patients can make safer food choices by preparing or blending whole foods themselves instead of buying pre-packaged foods like chicken nuggets or applesauce pouches, Dr. Grella says. 

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