UNLV Researchers Find Lead in Imported Hot Sauce - 8 News NOW

UNLV Researchers Find Lead in Imported Hot Sauce

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LAS VEGAS -- Researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, have found that the products you might be using to spice up your food could actually contain lead.

Hot sauces such as El Yucateco are staples in many pantries, but the next time you use them, you may want to take a closer look at the labels to see where they came from.

Picante, salsa and habanero. Hot sauces come in all shapes, colors and sizes -- and for some of us, they are something we can't live without.

For Jenny Stensrud, she goes as far as carrying extra packets in her purse!

"Just in case I go to restaurants or someone's house that doesn't have any," Stensrud said.

But hot sauce fans might want to start checking out where they get their spicy fix.

UNLV researchers released a study in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health that shows many hot sauces imported from Mexico and Latin America contain traces of lead.

Jennifer Berger Ritchie and her team at UNLV said they became concerned with hot sauce lead contamination after their 2006 study found lead in dozens of candies imported from Mexico, China and the Philippines.

"We actually purchased 25 and analyzed them and these are all from Clark County," Ritchie said.

These candies, many of which were later pulled stores shelves, shared key common ingredients with hot sauces, namely chilies and salt.

The study shows contaminated hot sauces like El Pato, Salsa Chamoy and Amor Salsa Picante, sold everywhere from swap meets to local supermarkets can pose a health danger especially to the very young.

"In children, it really affects the developing nervous system," UNLV researcher Shawn Gerstenberger said. "The biggest problem everybody worries about is the permanent reduction in IQ scores that are irreversible."

Researchers said four of the 25 hot sauces they tested exceeded the current FDA standard for unsafe levels of lead in candy. No similar study has been done before on hot sauces, so they don't have a set standard for that yet.

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