The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets today alerted consumers about the potential of heavy metal contamination in potash products. Potash, also known as Kaun or Akanwu, is edible and has a salty taste. It is used to shorten cooking time and maintain the freshness and color of vegetables. Through routine sampling, the Department has found potash to contain heavy metals in over 93% of the samples that they have collected and analyzed and is advising against the consumption of these products, which are also often sold as a dietary supplement. No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this product.
Routine sampling by New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ food inspectors and subsequent analysis of the product by the New York State Food Laboratory has shown that these products contain high levels of cadmium, arsenic, lead, and mercury.
In 2022, sampling of products being sold at retail food stores in Staten Island and the Bronx, New York, and analyzed at the New York State Laboratory showed heavy metal levels were present at 23 times and almost 6 times the New York action level of 1 part per million (ppm) for lead and inorganic arsenic respectively. The results led to a Class 2 recall of the products, and their removal from store shelves.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the FDA consumption of products containing heavy metals, such as lead and arsenic, has been associated with cancer, skin lesions, developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, diabetes, and learning disabilities in humans. Heavy metals are especially harmful to vulnerable populations, including infants, young children, pregnant women and their fetuses, and others with chronic health conditions.