H.J. Heinz Company (NYSE:HNZ) has recalled some of its infant food products in China after a local watchdog found excessive levels of lead in more than 1,400 boxes. The recall is considered to be a blow to the company’s reputation in a country where both foreign and domestic companies have been affected by food safety issues of late.
Heinz of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is famous worldwide for its ketchup and cereal, said Monday that it has recalled four batches of AD Calcium Hi-Protein Cereal, after regulators at the Food and Drug Administration in Zhejiang province in eastern China said that a raw ingredient used in the product was found to contain levels of lead above the allowable limit. The regulators did not provide details on the amount of lead in the affected product, but said that further details would be provided in coming days, Reuters reported.
“This relates to an isolated regional withdrawal in eastern China,” Michael Mullen, a company spokesperson told Reuters in an email. “Extensive testing confirmed that no other Heinz baby food varieties are affected.”
According to regulators, the latest contamination scare affected 1,472 boxes of infant cereal, while Heinz told authorities that it would destroy another 153 boxes sealed in a warehouse in the southern city of Guangzhou. The Zhejiang FDA also reportedly asked Heinz to compensate its customers over the recall.
Meanwhile, some consumers took to China’s Weibo micro-blogging site to question if the recall was just the beginning of a deeper problem while another group of consumers raised concerns about potential long-terms effects of lead on children’s health. According to experts, exposure to lead can slow down children’s intellectual and physical development.
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Children's products have been closely scrutinized by Chinese regulators since 2008, when six infants died and more than 300,000 became sick after consuming watered-down milk contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Last month, companies such as Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE:YUM) and McDonald's Corporation (NYSE:MCD) severed ties with Shanghai Husi Food, a Chinese branch of Illinois-based OSI Group LLC, which was accused of selling expired beef and chicken.