Nabisco Ginger Snaps, Mondelez, lead, food safety
Testing that began in 2013 showed Nabisco Ginger Snap cookies contained lead in excess of California limits without the warning required by California’s Proposition 65.

LOS ANGELES — Mondelez International, Inc. has agreed to pay $750,000 in civil penalties, costs and attorneys’ fees to the state of California, improve product sourcing and testing protocols that limit lead in its Nabisco Ginger Snap cookies to no more than 30 parts per billion per serving, and hire a food quality auditor to train personnel. The settlement followed testing that began in 2013 showing Nabisco Ginger Snap cookies contained lead in excess of California limits without the warning required by California’s Proposition 65. Testing revealed that a serving of Nabisco brand Ginger Snaps contained lead levels up to 9 times the level that requires a warning under Proposition 65.  Mondelez was not providing any Proposition 65 warnings to its customers, according to the California Attorney General.

Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris, California Attorney General

“The levels of lead found in Nabisco’s Ginger Snap cookies posed a serious public health threat, potentially impacting the brain development of our children,” said California Attorney General Kamala Harris. “Parents need accurate information to make educated food choices for their children. My office will continue to enforce Proposition 65 to guarantee that all Californians are fully informed when hazardous substances and chemicals can be found in consumer products.”

Lead is a neurotoxin that primarily affects the central nervous system, putting children with developing brains at a greater risk of suffering from the neurotoxic effects of lead. While no safe lead exposure threshold has been identified, California’s Proposition 65 requires a warning to consumers if they are exposed to 0.5 micrograms of lead per serving per day. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that children do not ingest candy that contains more than 100 parts per billion of lead.

The Attorney General’s office said Mondelez’s ginger snap cookies have since been reformulated, and that lead sources in the cookies were linked to ginger and molasses. Experts have linked high lead levels in molasses to soil in which sugar is grown, and also to the manufacturing process, the Attorney General’s office said. Sources of lead in powdered ginger also have been linked to contaminated soil in which ginger is grown, and to the brining process in which it is dried.

“While we have settled this case, we remain confident that these products pose no health or safety concern to consumers and that all our products are sold in compliance with applicable federal and state laws,” said Laurie M. Guzzinati, senior director, corporate and government affairs North America, Mondelez Global L.L.C. “We felt it was in the best interest of all parties concerned to resolve this matter at this time to avoid protracted litigation.”

The settlement is part of a series of cases that Attorney General Harris and her predecessors have successfully prosecuted under Proposition 65, in order to remove lead from a wide variety of consumer products, including Mexican candy and soda, artificial turf, jewelry, and vitamins and nutritional supplements.