FDA Demands Lead-Free Lunchboxes
The Food and Drug Administration is urging makers of soft vinyl (PVC) lunchboxes to stop marketing any products that contain lead. The move is an abruptly different course than the one taken by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has said that vinyl lunchboxes don't pose a health risk.
Last week, the FDA sent a letter to manufacturers and suppliers, saying it was concerned that the lead in these lunchboxes could leach into foods. "Because neither lead nor lead compounds are authorized for use in the manufacture of PVC food-contact articles such as lunchboxes and some migration of lead to food as a result of such use may reasonably be expected, we urge companies to refrain from marketing such lead-containing lunchboxes," wrote Laura M. Tarantino, director of the agency's office of food additive safety.
Ironically, the FDA cited the CPSC's own findings to make its case: "According to the CPSC data, a small amount of the lead present in the interior linings of the lunchboxes is transferable by a swipe test. This implies that a small amount of lead may reasonably be expected to transfer to food that contacts the interior lining and could be deemed to be an unsafe food additive. ... Therefore the lunchboxes containing the lead compounds may be subject to enforcement action."
Here's what the CPSC said about the same tests: "Based on the extremely low levels of lead found in our tests, in most cases, children would have to rub their lunchbox and then lick their hands more than 600 times every day, for about 15-30 days, in order for the lunchbox to present a health hazard."
The FDA letter is one more victory for the Center for Environmental Health, a California public-interest group that has been aggressively seeking the removal of lead in lunchboxes and kid's jewelry. It has won agreement from some manufacturers and retailers to limit the sales of such lunchboxes.
While applauding the FDA action, the group also warned parents to be wary of lunchboxes with labels saying they are "lead safe" or "lead free." CEH said it is unclear what tests the companies are using to make such claims and if, as one manufacturer said, they were relying on the CPSC's findings, then "Parents should take notice that a 'lead safe' label on a lunchbox may not provide adequate assurance."
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