I’ll Take My Hot Sauce Unleaded, Thanks
¡Ay, no! A study recently published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health found evidence that four chile-based hot sauces imported from Mexico may contain unsafe levels of lead.
Researchers from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas bought 25 bottles of hot sauce from local venues (grocery stores, ethnic markets and the swap meet). Each bottle was shaken for 60 seconds and then checked for lead concentrations, reports the UNLV News Center.
The FDA hasn’t set a standard for the amount of lead that can be in hot sauce. However, there’s no known safe level of lead exposure, and children are particularly vulnerable to lead’s damaging effects. For candy, the FDA has set a standard for lead concentrations at 0.1 parts per million (ppm). According to Shawn Gerstenberger, one of the study’s authors, the same level should be applied toward hot sauces. He adds, “Without enforceable standards for hot sauces and condiments, manufacturers will not be encouraged to improve quality control measures designed to reduce the amounts of lead and other toxic elements before exporting.”
The four culprits in this pilot study reported to exceed the 0.1 ppm FDA standard for lead in candy are: Salsa Picante de Chile Habanero, manufactured by El Yucateco; El Pato Salsa Picante, manufactured by Walker Foods; Salsa Habanera, manufactured by Salsas Castillo and Bufalo Salsa Clasica, manufactured by Herdez.
Walker Foods has released a statement on its website pointing out that only one of seven samples used in the UNLV study contained a significant level of lead (0.23 ppm), while the other six samples were well below the study’s suggested threshold of 0.1 ppm. They are, however, discontinuing their El Pato Red Salsa Picante. So far, the other salsa manufacturers remain mum.
Though hot sauce is typically consumed in small quantities, if it’s a regular part of your or your child’s diet, you might want to be careful. It could contribute to unsafe levels of exposure to lead, especially when combined with other sources of exposure such as soil or paint manufactured before 1978.