One year after Lunchables were introduced to K-12 schools nationwide, one organization is pushing for a complete recall, citing “relatively high” levels of heavy metals like lead and cadmium, as well as too much sodium. On April 9, Consumer Reports issued an announcement, sharing that they tested 12 different store-bought Lunchables kits and found multiple unsafe chemicals in almost all of them. Now, they’re urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to remove Lunchables and similar lunch kits from the National School Lunch Program. 

As part of the recent rollout, Kraft Heinz developed two new versions of Lunchables specifically for schools nationwide. But Consumer Reports found that these two kits had higher levels of sodium than the store-bought versions. At 460 to 740 milligrams per serving, that means they contain a quarter to half of a child’s recommended sodium limit per day. Excess sodium intake can lead to hypertension and high blood pressure, the org notes.

Several of the Lunchables tested contained “relatively high levels of lead and cadmium,” and all but tested positive for phthalates, which are chemicals found in plastic that have been linked to reproductive problems, diabetes, and certain cancers. Heavy metals like lead and cadmium enter the soil where our food is grown due to environmental pollutants, making them omnipresent in our food supply. 

Though trace levels are unavoidable, high levels can lead to a number of health concerns. The World Health Organization notes a link between cadmium and kidney and bone disease/cancer, while lead can build up in the body over time, causing toxicity. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that there is no safe level of lead exposure for children and can cause a number of developmental concerns, as well as other acute symptoms, as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes.

Currently, around 30 million children are served under the National School Lunch Program, which allows two Lunchables kits, Turkey & Cheddar Cracker Stackers and Extra Cheesy Pizza, in school cafeterias. These differ from store-bought versions in that they have added proteins and more whole grains, in an effort to make them more nutritionally balanced for kids. That said, Consumer Reports is urging the USDA to pull them altogether due to these safety concerns.

“Lunchables are not a healthy option for kids and shouldn’t be allowed on the menu as part of the National School Lunch Program,” Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports, said in a statement. “The Lunchables and similar lunch kits we tested contain concerning levels of sodium and harmful chemicals that can lead to serious health problems over time. The USDA should remove Lunchables from the National School Lunch Program and ensure that kids in schools have healthier options.”

Both the USDA and Kraft Heinz note that they take safety seriously, with Kraft Heinz working to include fresh fruit in new versions, as well as reduce the sodium in Lunchables crackers.

If you have any concerns, it’s never a bad idea to check in with your child’s pediatrician, who can help answer any questions or navigate you toward safe food options for your little ones.