Red Vines Black Licorice Recalled Due to Excessive Lead

KQED’s Sarah Baughn today spoke to Pat Kennelly, chief of the Food Safety Section for the California Dept of Public health, about the recall of one lot of Red Vines Black Licorice Twists.  The department found more than twice the level per serving considered safe to consume daily by children under six.

The candy is manufactured by Union City’s American Licorice Co., which  voluntarily recalled the product. Info on the recall from the company:

Only one pound bag (16 oz.) of Red Vines® Black Licorice Twists with a “Best Before Date” of 020413 are affected by this recall. The “Best Before Date” is located in black ink on the back of the package. American Licorice is notifying consumers not to eat this candy and asking they return to their place of purchase for a full refund.

Kennelly said the department has had an ongoing lead-testing program since 2006 for candy products, starting with imports from overseas and south of the border, then expanded to domestic companies.

“Out of fairness and out of concern that we’re looking at all products, we’ve continued to look at all candy products in the marketplace,” he said.

No illneses have yet to be associated with the licorice, Kennelly said. He said the department is working with the company to identify the source of the contamination.

The American Licorice Company is answering questions about the recall on its website, and the California Dept of Public Health has an FAQ up about lead and lead-contaminated products. Some safety tips:

What can I do to prevent lead poisoning and elevated blood lead levels?

California regulations to prevent childhood lead poisoning require that, for all children, the child’s health care provider give anticipatory guidance to prevent lead exposure at every periodic health assessment from age 6 months to 6 years. Blood lead testing is required at 12 and 24 months for children enrolled in publicly supported programs, such as Medi-Cal, Child Health and Disability Prevention, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Head Start. Blood lead testing is also required for other children considered at increased risk for lead exposure.

Because young children often put their hands and toys in their mouths, their hands and toys should be cleaned frequently. This can prevent the transfer of lead from the environment into their mouths. In addition, maintaining a good diet high in iron, calcium and vitamin C reduces lead absorption by the child’s body.

The department also has a link, updated July 26, with photos of candies that have been found to contain excessive lead.

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Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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