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State accuses Newport Beach manufacturer of selling toddler formula with illegal levels of lead

State accuses Newport Beach manufacturer of selling toddler formula with illegal levels of lead
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra discusses the lawsuit his office filed Thursday against two companies accused of selling toddler formulas with exceedingly high levels of lead. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

California’s attorney general Thursday filed a lawsuit accusing two food manufacturers — one based in Newport Beach and the other in Utah — of selling toddler formulas with illegally high levels of lead.

Graceleigh Inc., the Newport Beach company, and Nutraceutical Corp., based in Park City, Utah, are accused of violating California’s Proposition 65, which requires businesses to warn customers about exposure to potentially toxic chemicals. The complaint also accuses them of violating the state’s laws against unfair competition and false advertising.

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“There is nothing more important than ensuring the safety of our children,” state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said at a Sacramento news conference. “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare to learn you may be feeding your child something that may actually threaten their health.”

Graceleigh sells a goat milk formula for toddlers called Sammy’s Milk Free Range. In California Justice Department testing, the formula contained lead levels more than 15 times the state’s allowable amount, Becerra said.

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Nutraceutical sells a variety of products, including body washes and vitamins. The company’s Peaceful Planet Toddler Supreme, a rice protein powder, contained lead levels more than 13 times the allowable amount, Becerra said.

The milk and powder formulas also exceeded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s more lenient acceptable exposure levels, Becerra said.

Neither company returned emails and calls seeking comment.

The companies pulled the products out of California after cease-and-desist letters were sent last week, the state Justice Department said. Ten district attorneys in California, including Orange County’s Tony Rackauckas, joined the lawsuit.

“When parents give their toddlers formula, they need to have peace of mind that the product they are giving them is safe and free of lead,” Rackauckas said in a statement. “In fact, these formulas were targeted for sale to the most health-conscious parents. By continuing to protect food safety, we hope to keep our citizens, especially vulnerable children, safe.”

Violators of Proposition 65 are subject to a $2,500-per-day fine. Violating the unfair competition and false advertising laws carries a fine of up to $2,500 per violation, according to the suit.

The FDA accused Graceleigh in 2016 of not properly testing one of its Sammy’s Milk baby food products for a type of bacteria that could be fatal to infants. The company recalled the product.

High levels of lead adversely affect a developing child’s brain and have been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and aggressive behaviors, said Dr. Daniel McCrimons, a Sacramento-based pediatrician who spoke at Thursday’s news conference.

Dr. Timur Durrani, an associate professor at UC San Francisco who also spoke, recommended that parents who bought the products stop using them and take their children to their primary care providers.

Durrani said providers occasionally use medication to treat lead exposure but that medical treatment isn’t usually necessary.

Millman writes for the Los Angeles Times. Daily Pilot staff writer Hannah Fry contributed to this report.

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