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Researchers Trace High Levels of Lead in Mexican Hot Sauces

First Posted: Jul 25, 2013 08:20 AM EDT

A shocking study cautions all those people who can't do a meal without hot sauces. In a new finding the researchers at the University of Nevada Las Vegas discovered high levels of lead in four Mexican salsa brands that are available in some parts of the U.S.

In a pilot study conducted on 25 different brands of hot sauces from Mexico and South America, they noticed some brands carryied excessive lead content. The four brands are Salsa Picante de, El Pato Salsa Picante, Salsa Habanera, Chile Habanero and Bufalo Salsa Clasica.

The first known investigation of lead levels in hot sauces was conducted by Shawn Gerstenberger and Jennifer Berger Ritchie, who documented their results in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part B.

According to the experts, currently the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has no set benchmarks that could help evaluate lead levels found in hot sauces.

The new investigation revealed that the four brands had shocking levels of lead that surpass the current FDS standard of 0.1 parts per million which is labelled safe in candy, reports ABC News. The experts compared hot sauces to candy because like Mexican hot sauces, spicy candy also contains similar ingredients.

The researchers checked each brand for pH level as well as lead concentration after shaking the bottles thoroughly for 60 seconds. Apart from that they also examined  the packaging through which lead content could leak into the product and contaminate it. They found that 16 percent of the tested products exceeded the unsafe standard set by FDA i.e 0.1 ppm lead for candy.

The study states that, "although hot sauce would not intuitively be counted amongst food products highly consumed by children, the study suggests that ethnic and cultural practices must be considered. If hot sauce is a regular part of a child's diet, it could contribute to unsafe levels of lead exposure, especially when combined with exposure to lead in the soil, cookware, and candies, or paint manufactured before 1978."

Lead poisoning in young children leads to behavioural problems, comas, seizures , and learning disabilities and in extreme cases death.

"The results indicate the need for more rigorous screening protocols for products imported in Mexico, including an applicable standard for hot sauce," Gerstenberger said in a press release. "Without enforceable standards for hot sauces and condiments, manufacturers will not be encouraged to improve quality control measures designed to reduce the amounts of lead and other toxic elements before exporting."

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