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Hickory family files lawsuit in WanaBana lead contamination cases

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services first confirmed high levels of lead in WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree pouches in October
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The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services first confirmed high levels of lead in WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree pouches in October

Two more North Carolina parents are suing the food distributor WanaBana, saying their children suffered lead poisoning from the company's fruit puree products.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services first found high levels of lead in WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree pouches in October.

The FDA has since found the cinnamon sourced from Ecuador had high lead contamination, and some pouches were still on shelves at Dollar Tree stores as late as November.

"Whoever supplied the cinnamon to [WanaBana], it was included in their end-product. They're responsible for their end-product and they're responsible for maintaining proper assurances that the quality of their product remains pure," said the parents' attorney, Nicholas Williams.

Nicole Peterson and Thomas Duong of Hickory say their children, ages 1 and 3, consumed the pouches for at least six months before their doctor found high levels of lead in their blood during annual checkups last summer.

Lead toxicity can cause behavioral and developmental abnormalities in children, according to the state health department. Peterson and Duong say their children have been receiving treatment for lead extraction and developmental monitoring.

Williams says WanaBana was negligent in its quality control measures.

"This company had the duty at every step of the manufacturing process to ensure that its ingredients were sourced from vetted and trustworthy sources. That was not the case," Williams says.

WanaBana did not immediately respond to WUNC's request for comment.

Two other North Carolina parents have also filed a lawsuit against WanaBana, and there have been proposals to combine other lawsuits into a class action.

The FDA's investigation also includes Schnucks and Weis-brand apple cinnamon pouches. As of Jan. 30, the CDC has received more than 400 reports of lead toxicity confirmed or believed to be linked to the products.

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Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.