- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 28, 2005

City health officials are warning parents and merchants about lead-tainted candy popular with Hispanic children that was found this week in an Adams Morgan store.

“The [city’s] Department of Health will not tolerate shelves that are stocked with lead-laced candy available for sale to children,” Dr. Gregory Pane, the agency’s director, said yesterday. ?I am pleased to work with the community and the manufacturer to take every step possible to ensure these dangerous products no longer make their way into small hands as treats or snacks.?

Dr. Pane said the candy is really seasonings imported from Mexico that children pour down their throat in a ritual known as ?waterfalling.?

The seasonings are packaged in shakers and several of them — Lucas Limon, Super Lucas, Lucas Acidito and Lucas Limon con Chile — are made by Lucas candies, a subsidiary of candy maker Mars Inc.

The product was withdrawn from the market last year. Officials learned that it was still in the District on Wednesday after a congressional staffer spotted some in an Adams Morgan store. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Reps. Henry A. Waxman and Jan Schakowsky, all Democrats, then contacted city officials.

Dr. Pane said that the seasoning has not turned up elsewhere in the District and that the health department is working with federal agencies on joint investigations and inspections.

?We’ll continue to do this until we are satisfied there is no more Lucas Limon in the District,? he said.

Dr. Pane also said that so far, there have been no reports of illnesses related to the consumption of the candy, which sells for 39 cents per package and has four to six times the amount of lead considered safe for children to consume.

High levels of lead can cause kidney and brain damage and, in some cases, death. Pregnant women and very young children are the most vulnerable. Children who are exposed even to small amounts may suffer permanent learning problems and a lower IQ.

The Food and Drug Administration has information showing that candies and other food products with chili powder may contain even greater amounts of lead.

Among the examples are lollipops coated with chili and powdery mixtures of salt, lemon flavor and chili seasoning.

Delmy Gonzalez, 34, owner of La Colmenita Grocery and Deli, at 1704 Columbia Road NW, said that her store did not carry the products and that she had never heard of them before.

?I’m glad they found it,” said Miss Gonzalez of Silver Spring, who has owned the store since November. ?I have a 16-year-old son, and when he was 2 years old, we found out that he had lead poisoning. So it’s good they’ve found it.?

Dr. Pane planned to meet yesterday with Mars executives, who say they no longer make the products. He also said that the company has cooperated with the removal of the products and that no action will be taken against store owners if the products are found on their shelves.

?This may have been older supply,? he said. ?There may have not have been a knowledge or intent here, so we’re going to educate, confiscate, then assure we don’t have any additional product out there.?

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