Lead in Dollar Tree Cinnamon? Class Action Lawsuit Claims Contamination

dollar tree cinnamon contamination

Lawsuit Alleges Retailer and Manufacturer Failed to Disclose Lead and Didn't Have Safety Measures in Place

Following the troubling findings unearthed by federal investigations that a number of cinnamon products are contaminated with lead, a manufacturer of the spice pantry staple, along with retailer Dollar Tree, are facing legal action.

Colonna and Dollar Tree parent company Greenbrier International, Inc. have been hit with a lawsuit accusing the companies of violating New York business laws by allegedly not disclosing that Supreme Tradition Ground Cinnamon is contaminated with lead and for not having safety practices in place to protect consumers. 

According to the lawsuit, both Colonna and Dollar Tree make out that the cinnamon in question is safe to eat, when in reality it is “toxic and harmful.”

Dollar Tree, Supreme Tradition Cinnamon Lawsuit: Broken Trust?

Bronx resident Donna Bell filed the proposed class action lawsuit after buying Supreme Tradition cinnamon from Dollar Tree and using it under the impression it was safe to consume. 

However, following a Food and Drug Administration investigation into the product and subsequent recall in March, she found out she had been eating cinnamon contaminated with lead.

She argues in the lawsuit that family-owned business Colonna, which has been around since 1918 and makes cheeses, spices, and more, should have reasonable measures in place to test the safety of its products.

“It certainly leads consumers to believe it does when it repeatedly touts its family-run hundred-year commitment to quality,” the lawsuit states. 

“Colonna egregiously violated the trust it had built with consumers and broke its commitment to quality products when it manufactured and distributed the products, which were contaminated with lead,” the lawsuit argues. 

Dollar Tree, as the owner of the Supreme Tradition brand, shares responsibility for the “harmful injury to public health,”  Bell argues, saying not only does the company stand behind its brand, but it continues to sell Colonna products. 

Lead Poisoning: Health Risks and Effects

Lead is a naturally occurring metal that, according to the National Institute of Health, is a highly toxic metal with severe deleterious effects on every organ in the human body. 

Lead exposure can lead to convulsions, coma, or even death. In children, lead is known to cause irreversible damage to brain development, leading to lifelong learning disabilities and behavioral disorders, the lawsuit states.

Lead use has been phased out in the United States due to its toxicity, but given its predominance in years gone by, plus the fact it is naturally occurring, there are still high levels of lead contamination found in some food products. 

Dollar Tree Recalls Cinnamon After FDA Lead Warning

Earlier this year, the FDA looked into ground cinnamon products following the October 2023 recall of cinnamon apple puree and applesauce products due to elevated lead levels linked to the cinnamon in those products, which contributed to lead poisoning in children. 

In March this year, following the results of its study, the FDA issued a safety alert advising consumers not to buy or eat certain ground cinnamon products, including The Supreme Tradition cinnamon, because samples were found to contain elevated levels of lead.

Colonna and Dollar Tree recalled Supreme Tradition Ground Cinnamon, citing “a possible health risk due to elevated lead levels” and said that the recall was in response to the FDA testing. 

Lead in Cinnamon: How Does It Happen?

According to the Washington Post, cinnamon, which comes from the bark of a tree, can get contaminated with lead through soil or the air during plant growth. 

Laura Shumow, the executive director of the American Spice Trade Association, told the publication that over the more than 10 years it takes the tree to grow lead found in the soil can be absorbed through its roots or contact with the bark. Shumow added that industrial activity, roadways, and volcanic ash were all factors in how much lead was in the soil around the trees. 

When it came to making the finished product, Shumow said the drying process “naturally concentrates elements like lead in the finished product.” Sometimes, producers may even add lead chromate intentionally to boost the color or increase the weight of the cinnamon. 

Lead in Applesauce & Cinnamon: Lawsuits Target WanaBana, Dollar Tree

After the FDA discovered high levels of lead contamination in applesauce pouches, which was making children sick, was caused by the cinnamon, a number of lawsuits followed. 

WanaBana, one of the companies targeted in the FDA’s investigation, has been hit with multiple lawsuits from families who claim the company caused their children to fall sick and them to lose money, Forbes reported. The publication says more than 400 lead exposure cases have been reported to the CDC related to the recall. 

Dollar Tree was also hit with legal action in the applesauce cases, with consumers accusing the company of continuing to sell the products after the recall in a “reckless disregard for the safety of others.

In the Dollar Tree cinnamon contamination lawsuit, Bell wants to represent anyone in the country who might have purchased contaminated Supreme Tradition cinnamon from Dollar Tree. She is suing for violations of New York General Business Laws and unjust enrichment, and is seeking damages and other remedies.

Case Details

  • Lawsuit: Bell v Greenbrier International, Inc. et al.
  • Case Number: 1:24-cv-03559
  • Court: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Plaintiffs' Attorneys:

  • Russell M. Busch, Nick Suciu III, Trenton R. Kashima, and Luis Cardona (Milberg Coleman Bryson Phillips Grossman PLLC) 
  • Joshua B. Glatt and Ines Diaz Villafana (Bursor & Fisher PA)



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