Study says Lunchables contains too much lead for school lunches

ConsumerAffairs

The company defends its product

Just how healthy are school lunches? An independent lab report says they would be a lot healthier if certain items – such as pre-packaged Lunchables – were removed from the menu.

Lunchables, produced by Kraft Heinz, contains crackers, cheese and meat slices. The lab also found lead that it said exceeded federal limits in food.

"The Lunchables and similar lunch kits we tested contain concerning levels of sodium and harmful chemicals that can lead to serious health problems over time," said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports, which conducted the study. "The USDA should remove Lunchables from the National School Lunch Program and ensure that kids in schools have healthier options."

Kraft Heinz took issue with the report, saying it stands behind its product. In a statement, a spokesperson for the company said all of its products meet strict safety standards. The spokesperson also said that lead and cadmium occur naturally in the environment and should not be of concern because they appear at low levels.

"We are proud of Lunchables and stand by the quality and integrity that goes into making them," the company said.

A nutritionist weighs in

Sarah Herrington, a nutritionist at Brio-Medical, an alternative cancer treatment center, says many food options offered at schools skirt nutrition recommendations.

“Lunchables for schools are allowed because technically they meet guidelines by providing the ‘equivalent’ of whole grains and a meat / meat alternative,” Herrington told ConsumerAffairs. “But these are still highly processed food items that we are giving to our children.”

Herrington says processed grains and meat alternatives are linked to poor health outcomes later in life, such as cancer and diabetes, and that doesn’t begin to address the potential severe health complications associated with heavy metal toxicities such as lead. 

“These health outcomes are even becoming more and more prevalent in younger individuals, largely due to diet and lifestyle,” she said. “Excess sodium, or salt, also increases the palatability of food items, so children may learn to prefer those items over whole, natural foods.”

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