Child’s elevated lead levels result in nationwide recall of curry powder

By: Sherri Kolade | C&G Newspapers | Published November 1, 2018

 Seven-ounce plastic jars of Baraka curry powder and hot curry powder in an Oakland County home were found to contain lead, resulting in a national recall.

Seven-ounce plastic jars of Baraka curry powder and hot curry powder in an Oakland County home were found to contain lead, resulting in a national recall.

OAKLAND COUNTY — After a child in Oakland County was found to have elevated blood lead levels from consuming tainted curry powder over the summer, an Oakland County Health Division sanitation worker’s investigation resulted in a voluntary national recall of the curries.

According to a press release, the employee discovered lead in 7-ounce plastic jars of Baraka curry powder and hot curry powder at the child’s home.

Senior Public Health Sanitarian Richard Peresky informed the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, whose tests confirmed the presence of lead, the release states.

Peresky said in a follow-up email that when the county Health Division receives a report of elevated blood lead levels, it performs an investigation.

“That investigation includes things such as checking the condition of the home, checking for lead-painted surfaces, other types of toys,” he said, adding that makeup is also checked.

He said that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers anything above 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood to be elevated.

The Health Division routinely checks the results of lead data from blood tests performed at doctors’ offices and hospitals, the release states.

When a lead result is elevated, the Health Division visits the home of the individual to find the source of the lead so measures can be taken to halt the exposure.

According to the press release, Peresky checked the imported spices in the pantry at the home of the lead-poisoned child because the Oakland County Health Division has a history of discovering traces of lead in imported foods, especially spices.

When one of the curry spices tested positive in a field test, Peresky continued to test the other spices and found that another curry product also contained lead, the release states.

“Our health sanitarians are unsung heroes,” Oakland County Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Forzley said in the release.

Lead is a dangerous substance present in the environment in tiny amounts, according to the release, and everyone is exposed to some lead daily in dust, food or water.

Typically, small exposures to lead within the country’s population are not a significant public health concern, the release states.

“It’s important that families continue to pay attention if they live in homes prior to 1978 ... and take proper precautions when doing work on their home, and certainly hire certified professionals if they are going to be doing work on those older homes,” because of the use of lead-based paint,” Peresky said.

Peresky added in the release that the recall was a team effort with Oakland County Public Health Nurse Nadia Batarseh, who translated for the lead-poisoned child’s family, who do not speak English as a first language. Peresky also worked with several partner government agencies to confirm his field test results.

Peresky said, per results from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, that the curries had lead levels above 5 million parts per billion in both curries.

“This national recall is a result of cooperation among county, state and federal agencies along with the food distributor, importer and manufacturer,” Peresky said in the release. “The field testing sanitarians perform is merely the first step in a sequence of events that lead to a voluntary national recall.”

According to the release, the recall notice says that Dearborn-based UBC Food Distributors Inc. is voluntarily recalling 7-ounce plastic jars of Baraka hot curry powder and curry powder — UPC codes 822514265566 and 822514265535 — due to high levels of lead found in the products.

When reached for comment, a UBC Food Distributors representative stated, “We don’t have anything to add.”

The product was purchased from an importer.

The importer and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are currently in the process of working to ensure that “corrective action” can be taken, according to the press release.

“Oakland County Health Division sanitarians are on the front lines of public health,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said in the release.

For more information, go to www.oakgov.com/health.