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Beware of Imported Hot Sauce: Study Finds High Levels of Lead

Update Date: Jul 25, 2013 11:34 AM EDT

Hot sauce lovers might need to put a cap on their favorite bottles after a study found high levels of lead in some imported hot sauce bottles. This study, conducted by researchers from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), is one of the first studies to analyze the level of lead content in hot sauce bottles. Researchers, headed by Shawn Gerstenberger and Jennifer Berger Ritchie, identified several products from Mexico and South America that people might want to avoid.

The researchers acquired 25 bottles of hot sauce sourced from Mexico and South America and tested each product for lead concentrations, pH levels and lead on the packaging. The team found that 16 percent of the products had exceeded the 0.1 ppm (parts per million) standard for lead used in candy. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have any safe standards set for lead found in hot sauce. The researchers reported that four of the products that tested positive were from Mexico. The brands include El Pato Salsa Picante, Salsa Habanera, Salsa Picante de Chile Habanero and Bufalo Salsa Clasica.

"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," the UNLV researchers said. "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."

The researchers believe that this finding should prompt manufacturers and government agencies to consider regulating imported foods. This study also brings up the issue regarding the regulation protocols in foreign countries.

"Without enforceable standards for hot sauces and condiments, manufacturers will not be encouraged to improve quality control measure designed to reduce the amounts of lead and other toxic elements before exporting," Gerstenberger said according to Food Safety News.

The study was published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health

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