Consumer Reports discovers alarming levels of lead and sodium in Lunchables

Consumer Reports has found that prepackaged Lunchables, including deli meat, cheese, and crackers, contain troubling levels of lead and sodium, making them less than ideal choices for kids’ snacks or lunches.

Despite being a convenient option, Lunchables and similar lunch and snack kits from various manufacturers have raised concerns due to their highly processed nature. Processed meat, a primary ingredient in these products, has been associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, adding to the apprehension surrounding their consumption.

While none of the tested kits exceeded legal limits, five out of the twelve products tested contained levels of lead or cadmium, heavy metals known to cause developmental issues, that exceeded 50% of California’s maximum allowable amount. For instance, a 3.2-ounce Turkey and Cheddar Cracker Stackers Lunchable contained 74% of California’s lead limit and 49% of the recommended sodium intake for 4- to 8-year-olds.

Eric Boring, a chemist at Consumer Reports, highlighted the concern that such a small amount of food in these kits could nearly meet the daily maximum limit for lead exposure in children. This leaves little room for additional exposure from other sources such as water or the environment.

Consumer Reports emphasized that these products should not be a regular part of children’s diets and certainly not considered healthy for school lunches. However, a spokesperson for Kraft Heinz, the maker of Lunchables, defended the brand, highlighting efforts to improve their nutritional profile, including partnerships to offer Lunchables with Fresh Fruit and reducing sodium in crackers.

The spokesperson also argued against the classification of processed foods as inherently less nutritious, emphasizing that many processed foods contain added nutrients. They emphasized that food classifications should be based on scientific evidence, considering the overall nutritional value of the product rather than focusing solely on a single ingredient or processing level.

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