Oakland County sanitarian behind national voluntary recall of curry powder due to lead

Posted at 9:13 PM, Oct 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-29 23:09:36-04

An Oakland County sanitarian worker is behind a national voluntary recall after he found lead in curry powder that was making a child severely ill.

Richard Peresky says when he found out a child was being poisoned by lead and it wasn’t coming from water, he knew he needed to look elsewhere inside the child's home and get to the bottom of it.

"The child certainly had an elevated blood lead level," Peresky said.

Peresky is the senior public health sanitarian with the Oakland County Health Department.

"We pay special attention not only to our work, but also paint and soil," Peresky said. "But also some of the activities that the child might be engaged with."

A 10-year-old boy from Pontiac wasn’t feeling good and went to the doctor. He was told he had lead poisoning. Peresky and his team were called in to investigate.

"Lead, when introduced into children or even adults – but more so children because of their small body size and the great impact of the product – can lead to both temporary and permanent effects," Peresky said.

Symptoms of lead poisoning are abdominal pain, vomiting and weakness to name a few. Peresky says he needed to look elsewhere when he figured out lead wasn't in the home's drinking water.

"If we find that the products are used regularly or might be of concern, such as some imported foods, we then perform what’s called X-ray performance analysis," Peresky said. 

That X-ray found lead in curry powder the family was using.

"When you’re working with international markets or maybe some individuals who may be not as careful when making products, there is potential for contamination," Peresky said. 

The discovery lead to a national recall of the curry powder under the brands Corrado, Orlando imports, Nouri Syrian bakery, Mediterranean specialty foods, and buyers fruit market.

Some people say Peresky is a hero, but he says it was a team effort with everyone involved.

"To find that there was quality collaboration between Oakland County staff, nursing nutritionist, environmental health, as well as our state and federal partners actually makes me feel pretty great," Peresky said.

The FDA is telling folks not to consume these products.