Business Bites: FDA’s battle against contaminated cinnamon persists

6 tasty tidbits for this week: FDA addresses lead contamination in cinnamon products; New York proposes ban on harmful food additives; New York attorney general sues JBS USA for misleading sustainability claims; more.

7 Min Read

At a Glance

  • FDA recommends a voluntary recall of ground cinnamon products sold at six different retail chains.
  • New York lawmakers propose ban on harmful food additives, which could have nationwide consequences.
  • New York attorney general sues major seafood company for claiming it would be net zero by 2040.

U.S. officials are making moves to safeguard public health and the planet. First, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just outlined steps to ensure the safety of cinnamon products nationwide after a recall highlighted “extremely high” lead levels in applesauce. Meanwhile, New York lawmakers introduced legislation to ban dangerous food additives and enhance transparency. And when it comes to the environment, New York Attorney General Letitia James is suing JBS USA Food Co. for misleading sustainability claims. Which ones were misleading? Keep reading to find out.

FDA takes steps to ensure safety of cinnamon products sold in the US

Following a nationwide recall of cinnamon-infused applesauce products with “extremely high” lead levels that affected hundreds of Americans, FDA is taking action to address any future concerns. The agency recently sent a letter to all cinnamon manufacturers, processors, distributors and facility operators in the U.S., which details “the requirement to implement controls to prevent contamination from potential chemical hazards in food, including ground cinnamon products.” In the notification, FDA also recommended the voluntary recall of various ground cinnamon products sold by six brands at six different retail chains found to contain elevated levels of lead, which consumers are advised to throw away and not purchase. The listed products were identified during sampling and testing conducted by FDA to assess cinnamon products sold across the U.S. Though no illnesses have been linked to the newly recalled products, FDA is concerned that continued and prolonged use of the products may be unsafe because of the elevated lead levels contained in them.

“…More needs to be done to prevent elevated levels of contaminants from entering our food supply,” Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods Jim Jones said. “Food growers, manufacturers, importers and retailers share a responsibility for ensuring the safety of the foods that reach store shelves. The levels of lead we found in some ground cinnamon products are too high and we must do better to protect those most vulnerable to the negative health outcomes of exposure to elevated levels of lead.”

red dye

Legislators introduce two bills to protect NY residents from dangerous food additives

Food scientists, product developers and food and beverage companies may need to reformulate some products for sale in New York in the near future. Two state lawmakers, Sen. Brian Kavanagh and Assemblymember Anna Kelles, Ph.D., introduced two pieces of legislation aimed at protecting New Yorkers from dangerous food additives—known and unknown—used in foods and beverages. The first bill, NY A6424A/S6055B, would prohibit seven dangerous food additives: azodicarbonamide, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), potassium bromate, propylparaben, Red 3 and titanium dioxide. If passed, the ban would take effect in 2025.

The second bill, NY S8615/A9295, would require companies to disclose to the state when they add chemicals to foods and drinks that are self-affirmed GRAS (generally recognized as safe), without notifying FDA. FDA currently approves a few food chemicals, but doesn’t require premarket approval, notice or its own safety review for the vast majority of chemicals, which are instead deemed GRAS by companies that use them. GRAS determination is often conducted by experts of employees contracted by companies without notifying FDA or the public—something this new law would change.

Supporters of the bills include the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Interfaith Public Health Network, NYS American Academy of Pediatrics, Clean+Healthy, Consumer Reports, Environmental Working Group and others.

“State law has long included the authority to regulate what goes into our food, but New York has generally deferred to the federal government; such deference is not warranted with respect to these seven additives, which pose significant health risks,” Kavanagh said.“For too long, the FDA has failed to take action to protect consumers from toxic chemicals found in our food,” Kelles said. “I am proud to sponsor legislation to ban seven of these additives that are linked to serious adverse health effects like DNA damage, heart and thyroid toxicity, and reproductive harm.”

chicken farm

New York attorney general sues meat producer over alleged greenwashing

Letitia James is making waves. Not only did the New York attorney general recently hold FDA accountable for the safety of children and babies in the U.S., but she also just announced that she’s suing JBS USA Food Co. and JBS USA Food Co. Holdings for false advertising. She claims this meat and poultry giant misled consumers about the environmental footprint of their operations.

The lawsuit centers on JBS’s claims that it will be “net zero by 2040,” which means achieving net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. James alleged that JBS has run several advertisements making these claims, but said the company failed to fully account for its “Scope 3” emissions, which are emissions from a company’s vendors and suppliers, and apparently often represent most of an organization’s total emissions.

Takeaway: Don’t make aspirational sustainability claims without a way to substantiate them. That’s called greenwashing, and as this case proves, it can get you in trouble.


Yogurt may reduce risk of Type 2 diabetes, but FDA says evidence is still limited

On March 1, FDA issued an enforcement discretion letter to announce that it doesn’t object to certain qualified health claims about the consumption of yogurt and reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Here’s how FDA defines health claims:

  • A health claim describes a relationship between a substance and a disease or health-related condition.

  • A qualified health claim is a health claim supported by scientific evidence, but not as much as the third designation.

  • An authorized health claim is a health claim that meets a more rigorous “significant scientific agreement” standard.

Apparently, major yogurt producer Danone North America requested that FDA review this qualified health claim. FDA determined that, while some credible evidence does support a relationship between a minimum yogurt intake of 2 cups per week and reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes, the evidence is still limited. This association was based on yogurt as a food, not any single nutrient or compound in yogurt, regardless of fat or sugar content.


US states move to ban octopus farming, others may follow

Washington, California and Hawaii reportedly introduced bills to outlaw octopus farming after Spanish seafood company Nueva Pescanova caused a stir by planning to industrialize the farming of intelligent cephalopods with a first-of-its-kind facility in the Canary Islands. Octopus consumption is rising across the world, but animal rights groups assert that these animals — and the environment — deserve better. Yet, in the EU (along with many other places, given the recent influx of legislation), octopuses have no protections. Cell-cultivated octopus alternatives might offer a solution to this issue, but the ongoing controversy over cultivated meat continues may make that option untenable as well.

SupplySide East returns to New Jersey in April; SupplySide West prepares for Las Vegas

The anticipation is building for two SupplySide events scheduled for this year. SupplySide East, taking place April 16-17 in Secaucus, New Jersey, will showcase the latest ingredients for supplements and functional food and beverage products. The event will feature two workshops on April 15, as well as 10 additional educational sessions on April 16-17. To register, click here.

SupplySide West/Food ingredients North America (FiNA), taking place Oct. 28-31 in Las Vegas, brings together suppliers and buyers that drive the dietary supplement, food and beverage, animal nutrition, personal care and cosmetic industries. Each year, more than 1,000 exhibitors introduce their latest innovations to more than 20,000 global attendees. A robust education program is also planned for this year, featuring topics like food and beverage trends, technologies primed to advance the industry, healthy aging and sports nutrition. To be notified when registration opens, click here.

We’re attending Natural Products Expo West this week, so we’re taking a break next week, returning with more bites on Monday, March 25. In the meantime, make sure to check out our exclusive recaps from the show.

About the Author(s)

Heather Carter

Associate editor, Food & Beverage Insider

With over a decade of diverse professional experience under her belt, Heather has journeyed from the bustling world of local news reporting to the intricate realms of trade publishing. She has covered a wide array of topics, ranging from architecture and design to the food and beverage industry.

During her illustrious career, Heather also ventured into the realm of public relations, where she gleaned invaluable insights into the art of strategic communication and brand storytelling. Yet, her heart has always been anchored in the vibrant world of F&B, a passion deeply ingrained in her roots as the daughter of a seasoned chef. She has always held a profound appreciation for the role food plays in shaping cultures and connecting people.

With each story she tells, Heather seeks to illuminate the profound impact of food and beverage on people’s lives, celebrating its ability to evoke emotions, foster connections and weave the fabric of our shared human experience.

As Food & Beverage Insider's associate editor, she co-publishes a weekly news column, Business Bites, which showcases the latest industry news, highlighting key business updates, food and beverage innovation, industry events and more. Some of her other articles touch on important topics, such as ultra-processed foods, plant-based foods primed to change the food landscape, international flavors and ingredients, as well as better-for-you CPGs. She also frequently covers top trends at various industry events and has moderated first-of-their-kind education sessions at Informa events.

She can be reached at [email protected].

Scott Miller

Staff writer, Food & Beverage Insider

Scott Miller brings two decades of experience as a writer, editor, and communications specialist to Food & Beverage Insider. He’s done a little of everything, from walking a beat as a freelance journalist to taking the Big Red Pen to massive technical volumes. He even ran a professional brewing industry website for several years, leveling up content delivery during an era when everyone had a blog.

Since starting at Food & Beverage Insider, he’s written pieces on the price of greenwashing (and how to avoid it), debunked studies that served little to no purpose (other than upsetting the public) and explained the benefits of caffeine alternatives, along with various other stories on trends and events.

Scott is particularly interested in how science, technology and industry are converging to answer tomorrow’s big questions about food insecurity, climate change and more.

Subscribe and receive the latest insights on the healthy food and beverage industry.
Join 30,000+ members. Yes, it's completely free.

You May Also Like