Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Lead-filled Lunchables: USDA needs to protect youth from heavy metals. (Op-Ed)

If you grew up in the ‘90s or 2000s, you’ve likely had a delectable Lunchable. From salty crackers, deli meats, and cheese kits, to tiny chicken nuggets, to (my personal favorite) nachos, Lunchables are a staple for American children and young adults. It’s a quick, easy lunch to pack, and the marketing is kid-driven, with silly, fun commercials. However, according to Consumer Reports (CR), the snacks also contain worrying levels of lead and sodium. The advocacy group tested Lunchables, made by Kraft Heinz, and found that five out of twelve products contained almost 50% of California’s maximum allowable amount of lead and cadmium heavy metals. For example, A 3.2-ounce Turkey and Cheddar Cracker Stackers Lunchables held 74% of California’s level allowed for lead, and 49% of the daily recommended sodium for 4- to 8-year-olds. Other products tested by CR were found to contain lesser amounts of both lead and sodium.

Would I have eaten as many Lunchables in undergrad as I did if I had known that there was lead in them? Absolutely not! Would my mother have purchased me Lunchables during my school days if she knew that there was any trace of lead in them? Hell no! I can only fathom just how much lead I have consumed over the course of my 24 years of age; maybe that’s why I am the way I am?

Regardless of whether you or your children consume Lunchables, the sinister marketing promotes them as fun snacks to be desired. Commercials include animals and cool kids enjoying the product. Put on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon for a few hours and you’re bound to see several ads. Worse, Lunchables are often sold in schools and provided to children on free or reduced-price lunch programs.

Not only is it unethical to use lead in the manufacturing process of children’s food, but capitalizing off of it with advertising that appeals to parents and kids is deliberately misleading. Kraft Heinz is feeding us lead without our knowledge. It’s not as if the nutrition facts on the back of the package clearly state that there are heavy metals in the product. Considering the fact that we are potentially exposed to lead quite often (in water, other foods, and the environment), children’s small bodies may be exceeding the daily allowable dose of lead. Lead poisoning can lead to behavioral and developmental issues in children, and in some cases, death.

The USDA needs to step up to the plate and forbid any amount of lead to be in food made for human consumption. CR is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove the Kraft Heinz products from the federal program that provides free or reduced-price lunches for children with its petition gathering more than 18,300 signatures.


Join Our Mailing List

Recent Articles

Hey! Are you enjoying NYCTastemakers? Make sure to join our mailing list for NYCTM and never miss the chance to read all of our articles!