Contacts: Kathy Barton
The Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) is urging people to refrain from buying or using “Mi Patria” brand clay tableware because it may contain lead.
HDHHS recommends that people not cook, serve or store foods and beverages in Mi Patria coffee mugs, dip servers, bowls and bean pots. The recommendation applies to the clay pottery – imported from Mexico – even if accompanied by labels indicating they are lead free.
Eleven out of 23 Mi Patria pottery pieces tested by HDHHS contained lead or exceeded lead-level limits set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for ceramic ware whose surfaces come in contact with food.
“Lead poisoning can be damaging to the growth and development of young children even in small amounts,” said Brenda Reyes, bureau chief of HDHHS’ Community and Children’s Environmental Health Services.
HDHHS food inspectors noticed the pottery on display shelves while conducting routine inspections at two Fiesta Mart stores. The retail chain voluntarily stopped selling all the implicated tableware as soon as tests confirmed lead contamination.
HDHHS worked with sales representatives of the Mi Patria distributor for Houston, Dallas and Austin and they indicated supplies stored locally have now been shipped back to manufacturer in Mexico. Other businesses targeting Hispanic consumers may have sold Mi Patria products in Houston.
HDHHS found misleading information about the safety of the pottery on the product labels and the distributor’s website. The labels, placed on individual pottery pieces after being imported into the United States, erroneously stated “This product complies with FDA requirements in the preparation, serving, or storage of food.” The distributor’s website www.mipatria.com indicated “All our clay products are food contamination free and dishwashable.”
Agencies that HDHHS engaged after discovering the contaminated pottery include the FDA, Federal Trade Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
HDHHS can regulate the use of ceramic ware or clay pottery used in the storage, preparation, cooking or serving of food in permitted food establishments. However, HDHHS does not regulate lead-glazed pottery for decorative purposes or for sale in retail or wholesale establishments.
The FDA has notified HDHHS that it is currently drafting a letter to manufacturers and importers about the hazards of lead glazed pottery and its authority to take action against non-compliance with requirements.
Lead poisoning in children can result in learning disabilities, behavioral problems, mental retardation, speech and language handicaps and brain damage. Extremely high blood lead levels can trigger seizures, coma or even death. In adults, lead poisoning can cause high blood pressure, infertility and kidney damage.
Photos of the contaminated pottery can be found in HDHHS website at www.houstonhealth.org.
The Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) provides local disease surveillance, preventive health care for the residents of Houston, treatment for selected diseases, a wide range of environmental services and enforcement of certain city and state laws.