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The state of California has reached a settlement with three manufacturers of Mexican-style spicy candies to reduce the risks of exposing children to confections contaminated with lead, which can cause brain damage and other health problems, according to a report by the East Bay Business Times.
Under the deal, candy manufacturers, including subsidiaries of Mars Inc. and The Hershey Co., agreed to change their manufacturing processes, conduct independent audits within six months to ensure the changes are reducing lead contamination and buy only from suppliers who wash and clean the chili peppers used in making the candies. Lead-contaminated soil on the peppers was thought to be a source of contamination.
The candy makers also will pay a total of $954,000, a $100,000 civil penalty, $379,000 toward lead-poisoning education and $475,000 in fees and costs.
The companies that settled were Effem de Mexico and Masterfoods U.S.A., both Mars subsidiaries; Grupo Lorena Compania S.N.C. de C.V, another Mars subsidiary; Grupo Lorena S.A de C.V., a subsidiary of The Hershey Co.; and Dulces Vero S.A. de C.V., the newspaper reported.
They were among more than two dozen manufacturers sued in 2004 by the state, local prosecutors, the Center for Environmental Health of Oakland, and the Environmental Health Coalition of National City.
The lawsuit, initiated with a complaint by the environmental groups, accused the companies of failing to provide warnings under Proposition 65 about the presence of dangerous substances in the candy. Tests by the state found lead levels in the candy well in excess of that requiring a warning under state law.
The case against other defendants continues.