Food With Lead


Food With Lead The hand-crafted home cooking of the late 19th and early 20th centuries is back in style – with a lead content. Learn to make delicious, nutritious, old-fashioned food that’s good for you and your loved ones by stocking your pantry with food that is good for you, too!


Food With Lead

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, it is never safe to consume lead, even at the lowest levels. Exposure to heavy metals like lead has been linked to a whole host of problems, especially for young children. For starters, children who have been found to have lead in their blood are at higher risk for struggling with their behavior and may experience a drop in their IQ. As for adults who are exposed to lead, they could experience damage to their kidneys and be plagued with chronically high blood pressure, according to the World Health Organization. This global organization also warns pregnant women to be especially careful about lead, since it has been associated with miscarriage, stillbirth, and low birth weight.

Even though it is fairly well known that lead exposure is dangerous for health, contamination is typically associated with older toys and paints found in older homes. Unfortunately, this heavy metal can be found in unexpected places, like the foods we eat, and could be harming our health without our knowledge. Even foods deemed as healthy might be a source of lead exposure.

These common foods we eat probably contain lead and most importantly, here’s how to avoid the consequences.

1. Home-Grown Vegetables

Soil could contaminate garden-fresh food.

Even though growing your own food is typically a smart choice for your health, it isn’t a practice that is without risks. Since vegetables and fruit can absorb lead from the soil they’re grown in, gardeners should be careful to have their plot tested before getting to work sowing seeds. Homes near railways and older homes have the highest risk for high levels of lead in the surrounding soil, but testing for contamination is an easy and cheap process that anyone with a green thumb should consider.

2. Baby Food

Parents want to give their children a strong start, but baby foods could be doing more harm than good.

In 2017, researchers discovered that lead was present in baby foods in much higher frequencies than other kinds of foods. Specifically, 20 percent of the baby food sampled in the study contained lead. Additionally, eight of the kinds of baby food tested contained lead in 40% of the samples. To avoid dangerous exposure to lead in children, the Environmental Defense Fund recommends contacting individual manufacturers to ask for documentation of lead testing.

3. Sweet Treats

Your child’s favorite candy shouldn’t be a source of lead contamination.

However, specific types of candies have been found to have unsafe heavy metal concentrations. Sweets specifically containing chili powder, tamarind, and salt mined outside the United States are the riskiest candies to eat. You should be especially careful with candies that are imported from countries that do not regulate food, since they may contain higher unregulated levels.

Lead is so common in candy that the FDA began regulating children’s favorite candies.

To guarantee that children and pregnant women aren’t at risk, the FDA performs testing on a wide range of samples and asks manufacturers to comply with a specific set of practices to keep their products safe. Individuals worried about lead in sweets should stick with foods that have FDA labeling, and may need to contact individual companies to find out if they’re testing their products.

4. Chocolate and Cocoa Powder

Researchers found that cocoa content and location influenced how much lead and cadmium were present in chocolate.

In 2015, the Washington Post highlighted concerns about the lead content of chocolate when a non-profit began asking companies to better label their products with warnings about heavy metal content. Although the content meets FDA requirements, the worry is that Americans consume so much chocolate that it accumulates over time. You don’t have to deny your sweet tooth, but can instead choose to purchase brands found to be free of lead and cadmium.

5. Fruit Juice

To avoid lead exposure, stick with water or purchase low-risk juices.

In 2019, Consumer Reports published their findings after testing 45 of the most commonly purchased fruit juices for heavy metals. They found that almost half of the juices they tested contained unsafe levels of cadmium, lead, mercury, and inorganic arsenic. But, what should parents do?

First, consider cutting back on fruit juice altogether since it is no longer considered to be a recommended part of the diets of young children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. After that, look for the juices Consumer Reports found to be safe, like 365 Everyday Value 100% Apple Juice from Whole Foods.

6. Organic Foods

Buying organic doesn’t offer complete protection from lead contamination.

Health-conscious parents may turn to organically grown foods, but that doesn’t mean that the foods they eat are risk-free. The truth is that heavy metal contamination is just as common in organic baby foods as in conventional products. Consumer Reports suggests that parents cut back on packaged foods to keep their children safe, and to make sure their kid’s food has been tested by the companies they’re buying from.

7. Protein Powders

Your post-workout fuel could be putting you at risk.

There’s nothing quite like an icy protein shake after hitting it hard at the gym, but you might want to think twice before relying on protein powders as a source of nutrition. According to Consumer Reports, protein made from plants like peas and hemp have the highest lead concentration, which includes big name brands like Vega and Garden of Life. Athletes might take offense to Consumer Reports’ advice, though, which is to stop worrying so much about protein intake since most American’s have more than enough in their diet.

Why is lead a problem?

Lead is a high-density metal that is naturally part of our planet. But the problem is that inside your body, it looks a lot like calcium.

So, your body allows lead to bind to proteins and move with ease through your internal membranes. It can cause mild to serious health problems and permanent brain impairment.

Since lead is naturally occurring on our planet, it is impossible to avoid it completely. But still, lead is considered a true poison, not a “poison by dose.” That means lead plays no role in a healthy body and can damage your health, even with minimal doses sustained over time.

Is lead hiding in plain sight on your counter?

We all know it is important to avoid the high exposure to lead that comes from industrial use like gasoline, mining, and lead-based paint. Lead also spreads during volcano eruptions.

On a more personal level, you may be exposing yourself to lead through products you use or consume every day.  

  • Makeup like lipstick (especially darker colors), eyeliner, and progressive hair dye,
  • Plant-based protein powders like pea and rice protein,
  • Cocoa powder, and
  • Traditional remedies like Bint al Dahab, used in Oman to treat constipation.


An integral part of our process in sourcing and creating ZEGO products is ensuring they are as pure as possible. And not just free from allergens and gluten but also by minimizing toxic heavy metal residue. Read more about our safety protocol and testing below.

Could your symptoms be lead poisoning?

Acute lead exposure (meaning a high level in a short period of time) can cause vomiting, brain swelling, and seizures. Luckily, most of us are not exposed to acute levels of lead. We are more concerned about lead’s invisible threat at low levels of exposure over our lifetime.

You are right to be concerned about this because lead accumulates in your body. And, you may have no idea that the symptoms you are experiencing–gastrointestinal distress, depression, nausea, and fatigue–are actually caused by lead toxicity (your health care practitioner can run a lead test for you).

Here is a long list of concerning symptoms that we often blame other causes for but could be caused by lead poisoning.

  • dementia
  • joint pain
  • high blood pressure
  • hallucinations
  • urinary tract infections
  • hair loss
  • exhaustion
  • anemia
  • reduced IQ
  • cognitive impairment

Lead poisoning and your health: Here’s how to detect lead in food

Lead is naturally present in the environment – air, water, and soil. But prolonged exposure to the toxic element can be fatal for humans. Here’s a simple procedure to detect the presence of lead in food.

Lead poisoning and your health - Here’s how to detect lead in food


Lead poisoning and your health – Here’s how to detect lead in food  |  Photo Credit: Thinkstock

New Delhi: The concerns pertaining to whether instant noodles – widely consumed in Asian countries – are safe to eat resurface after its manufacturer Nestle admitted the presence of toxic elements such as lead in its noodles. Nestle India’s lawyers, however, argued that test results showed that lead content in its noodles was within the permissible limit.

“It was explained by us that the lead is present everywhere and therefore post proper scientific evaluation, a limit of 2.5 parts per million (PPM) is fixed as the permissible limit. We do not add any lead to the product and minuscule quantities can come from purely external sources like air, water, and grains,” Nestle’s lawyers said. Lead (Pb) is a highly toxic element and its prolonged exposure to humans can be fatal. Perhaps, there is no known level of lead that is considered safe. Lead exposure can have serious consequences for the health of children who are more at risk as they absorb 4-5 times as much ingested lead as adults from a given source.

How does lead get into our food? What are the health risks associated with it?

Lead is naturally present in the environment – air, water, and soil.   Many plants that are important to our food supply take in small amounts of naturally occurring compounds, including lead, as they grow. People can also become exposed to lead by consuming food (from lead-glazed or lead-soldered containers) and water (from leaded pipes).

It is claimed that even very low blood lead levels can cause behavioural problems and lower IQ in children. At high levels of exposure, it can attack the brain and central nervous system, which may lead to coma, convulsions and even death. In fact, kids who survive severe lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and behavioural disorders.

In adults, prolonged lead exposure can cause permanent damage to the kidneys, liver and hematologic systems. Lead can affect both male and female reproductive systems, which may cause reduced fertility. In pregnant women, exposure to lead can cause miscarriage, prematurity, low birth weight, etc.

Lead exposure has also been linked to various health problems, including coronary heart disease, heart rate variability, and death from stroke, although this evidence is more limited.

Lead detection method

According to Home Health Chemistry, the following procedure can help in detecting the presence of lead in the food.

  • You may lightly soak a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol and rub against the thing you want to test for about 1 minute.
  • Let the swab air dry to evaporate the alcohol.
  • Mix a small pinch of Sodium rhodizonate (lead Indicator) with a ¼ cup of water. You can label this solution as ‘indicator’.
  • Mix a drop of the indicator solution with a drop of vinegar on
  • a white plastic plate. The resulting drop solution mixture should be colourless to yellow.
  • Now, dip the dried swab into the drop solution mixture, allowing it to soak up the liquid.
  • You will observe a pink-red colouration within 1-10 minutes (depending on the Lead concentration) if the lead is present on the swab.

The website says that this procedure, which is based on US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) analytical method #9105, is qualitative and able to detect lead content down to 0.1 per cent. If lead is detected, you should take steps to limit your exposure to lead and seek professional help.

Signs and symptoms lead poisoning

Lead poisoning can be hard to detect since it can have no symptoms at initial stages. Lead poisoning symptoms in children may include -growth delays, behavioural problems, learning difficulties, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, constipation, vomiting, hearing loss, stumbling when walking, anaemia, muscle weakness, seizures, etc.

In adults, the main symptoms of lead poisoning are – headache, abdominal pain, memory loss, weakness, loss of appetite, malaise, fatigue, nausea, diarrhoea, depression, and pain or tingling in the extremities.

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a professional healthcare provider if you have any specific questions about any medical matter.

Lead contamination in food-producing animals

Lead exposure can cause serious illness in animals and sometimes causes death. Cattle are the most common food-producing animals affected.

If animals consume lead or lead pieces, or even lick lead surfaces, they may absorb enough of the metal to cause lead poisoning.

At low levels of exposure, they may survive and not show clinical signs of lead poisoning. Even so, there may be unacceptable levels of lead residue in the meat, liver and kidney from those animals, or in milk that they produce. If these residues exceed the maximum level set for lead in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, the product will be unsuitable for human consumption. If you suspect your animals have, or are at risk of, lead poisoning, or may have lead above maximum levels, you must not send them to slaughter.

The Biosecurity Regulation 2016 adopts the contaminant standards for heavy metals included in schedule 19 of the Australia New Zealand food standards code as the acceptable levels for contaminants in plant and animal food commodities.

Under the Biosecurity Act 2014, anyone who deals with biosecurity matter has a general biosecurity obligation to minimise biosecurity risks posed by the matter, especially if these risks may affect human health or trade.

Lead contamination of food-producing animals is a serious risk to human health and trade in agricultural commodities, as the lead may enter the food chain. Therefore, people who deal with food-producing animals that show signs of lead poisoning, or with animals that may be contaminated with lead, must minimise these risks.

Lead contamination is a notifiable incident under the Biosecurity Act 2014. You must notify a Biosecurity Queensland officer if you suspect that food-producing animals are affected by exposure to lead.

This guide contains information about:

  • major sources of lead
  • how to safely dispose of toxic rubbish
  • signs of lead poisoning
  • clinical testing and treatment advice for veterinarians.

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