Cadmium Prompts CPSC Recall of McDonald’s Shrek Forever After Promotional Glasses

You pull in to the drive through at McDonald’s and you place your order. And then you ask for some cadmium on the side.

What? You don’t want cadmium when you go to McDonald’s? Well, then don’t order the French fries (just so you know, fries generally have 0.06 parts per million or “ppm” cadmium). (For reference and before you panic, low levels of cadmium are found in many items we eat. But the most common source of cadmium exposure for Americans is cigarette smoke.)

And don’t buy the new promotional Shrek Forever After glasses at McDonald’s, because, well, the painted decorations have cadmium.

Yep, that’s right. Cadmium.

Not what you wanted or expected, is it?

But it is true. And today the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a voluntary recall of those promotional Shrek Forever After glasses. 12 million of those glasses.

I was one of the people to submit the information to the CPSC. I used my Thermo Fisher Scientific Niton XRF analyzer to test all of the current promotional Shrek Forever After glasses – Donkey, Shrek, Fiona and Puss in Boots. And I found cadmium. The cadmium levels varied with the paint color. Historically, cadmium has been used in paint to get yellow to deep red hues.

In the Fiona glass, I detected 1,049 ppm cadmium in the baby’s face. I detected no cadmium in Fiona’s dress (at the sleeve) but did find 10,900 ppm chromium.

In Puss in Boots, I detected cadmium at 1,378 ppm in the red pillow on which Puss rests, 1,048 ppm cadmium in the orange part of Puss, and 1,575 ppm cadmium in the yellow lion on which the Gingerbread Man sits. The Puss figure on the back (in the orange) was 1,707 ppm cadmium and 3,721 ppm chromium.

I detected 1,020 ppm in the green used on the Shrek glass. The yellow on that glass (at the Fiona Wanted sign) was 1,946  ppm cadmium.

Now, since the paint on the glasses is a thin film, it is possible that the cadmium levels are actually higher in the paint because the analyzer penetrates the glass, and the glass doesn’t have any cadmium. And, the XRF analyzer detects total and not soluble levels, which, as we know from the Zhu Zhu pets fiasco, is a big difference.

The real question is – does the cadmium matter? Cadmium is considered more toxic than lead and exposure is linked to a number of health problems. Cadmium is a carcinogen. Ingestion of low levels of cadmium can lead to kidney damage and fragile bones. The CPSC’s recall announcement states that “[c]onsumers should stop using recalled products immediately.”

But can you get exposed from cadmium in the painted decorations on the outside of these glasses? The painted decorations are unlikely to leach into liquids contained in the glasses – the decorations are on the outside. The decorations are also below what is known as the “lip and rim area” – or the area where you put your mouth to drink out of the glass – so you are not likely to actually put the painted decorations in your mouth.

However, you can get wear and transfer from the decorations to your hands. While dermal absorption of cadmium is very low, the exposure occurs as cadmium is transferred to your hands and then your mouth or your food. Think about it – drink out of the glass, eat a french fry or your chicken nuggets. Are you going to wash your hands in between? Nope.

Also, washing the glasses can result in contamination of other dishes. In an automatic dishwasher, the heat and intensity of the water hitting the glasses can cause the decorations to deteriorate. Unfortunately, the cadmium can contaminate other dinnerware placed in the dishwasher – although the rinse cycle may remove all or some of it.

Does it matter? Well, there isn’t an applicable regulatory standard (see below), but you may want to avoid the glasses.

Why is there even cadmium in a children’s product (and is this a children’s product?)? Earlier this year, there were several high profile recalls of cadmium in children’s jewelry. But, the thing is, there isn’t any comprehensive federal regulation addressing cadmium in children’s products.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) does NOT have a limit for total cadmium. It does implement a standard for soluble cadmium in paints and coatings used on children’s toys (because the CPSIA makes mandatory the ASTM F963 toy standard). That standard is 75 ppm cadmium (soluble). But the CPSIA doesn’t have a cadmium standard for all children’s products as the CPSIA does for lead.

The CPSC has recalled cadmium children’s products (including the previously mentioned children’s jewelry items) under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA). The FHSA allows the CPSC to find an item to be a “banned hazardous substance” if the level of cadmium is sufficient to cause substantial illness as a result of reasonably foreseeable handling or use, including reasonably foreseeable ingestion by children.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a standard for cadmium (and lead) in ceramic articles, flatware and hollowware used for food storage. The standard is based upon extractable or leachable cadmium (and lead) and not total cadmium as measured by the XRF.

In addition to this standard, there is a voluntary industry standard for lead and cadmium in the lip and rim area. These limits are not more than 4 ppm of lead and not more than 0.4 ppm for cadmium leachable from the lip and rim area. And, as discussed above, the Shrek decorations are outside the lip and rim area.

In California, there is Proposition 65, which requires a warning before exposing consumers to chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer or reproductive or other developmental harm. Cadmium is included on the Proposition 65 list. Proposition 65’s levels are based upon exposure, so various settlements (known as consent judgments) have established content levels in various articles. Under what is known as the Boelter settlement, decorations on glassware outside the lip and rim area can contain no more than 4,800 ppm cadmium (tested by a digestive test or a separate standard for wipe tests), which is higher than the results I got (for total cadmium, although caveat mentioned above about thin film).

Minnesota also has a law regulating cadmium in paints and the like. Specifically, Minnesota law bans the intentional introduction or incidental presence above 100 parts per million of lead, cadmium, mercury or hexavalent chromium into any pigment, paint, dye, ink or fungicides used or sold in the state after 1998.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier from California also made the CPSC aware of this issue.  It appears that Congresswoman Speier’s efforts were instrumental in the recall.  Given the lack of an applicable regulatory standard, whether the recall was necessary or not is open to debate.

(Please note – I updated this post to clarify the Boelter settlement levels. I inadvertently dropped part of a sentence, so I had a lip and rim area level confused with a non lip and rim area limit.)

(Please note further – While I am an attorney, my testing of these Shrek glasses had nothing to do with my legal practice. My use of the XRF for testing stems from being a former environmental engineer, a mom and a consultant that has access to the device & uses it. I am not involved in any lawsuit or claim against McDonald’s related to these glasses. I have received no monetary benefit from testing these glasses or the recall.)


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  1. matthew brown says:

    I have been have severe headaches ever since I bought the cups, back when they first went on sale at mcdonalds.

  2. John Egan says:

    Just curious where McDonalds gets the glassware from? China? Bet so!

  3. Great. I’m 13 years old and I had gotten one of these a couple days ago. I didn’t know about this then and drank out of it. Now learning this, I’m panicking like crazy. If i get cancer or any of that I’m blaming mc donalds.

  4. Oh lordy, thank you so so much for this. It’s one thing when it’s on jewelry–that’s bad enough–but when it’s on glassware? That you PUT IN YOUR MOUTH?

    Well, maybe it’s no worse than anything else at McDonald’s.

  5. Chauncey Gardener says:

    I have found that the green painted stakes sold at many garden centers contain lead, the packaging even depicts vegetable plants being grown with the product. When I complained to Lowes I got absolutely no response from them. It is hard to have an organic garden when lead based paint coats the tomato stakes.

  6. A better question should be: why are people eating at McDonalds anyway? Their food is more unhealthy and toxic than the cadmium in the glasses!

  7. What made you test the glasses in the first place?

  8. my friend francisco died, i cant believe those cups are that bad

  9. Brick House says:

    “Just curious where McDonalds gets the glassware from? China? Bet so!”

    Well, you lose that bet. The glasses are proudly Made in America…

  10. Kevin F says:

    In response to John Egan … the cups were made here in the USA.

  11. Made in China? Not on your nellie…

    Manufacturer: ARC International, of Millville, NJ

  12. heydave says:

    You actually own a NITON device? So do I, but my employer bought it for work.

  13. Jennifer says:

    Heydave – I have one that I lease so I don’t technically “own”. But I use it professionally.

  14. WRT cups made in USA. As was noted on other forums, this company does some manufacturing in NJ, but farms out large amounts to a number of countries, including China.

    No idea if that’s the case w/ this batch or, for that matter, where the paint was manufactured.

  15. Why not scrape some of the paint off the macdonalds glasses then test it separately from the glass. Or perhaps you could test the glass, then the glass + paint and subtract the readings?

  16. Not lovin it says:

    I am mad! My kids have been drinking from these glasses daily and they all are suffering from headaches, hives, chills, fever and diarrea. That’s it for McD’s food and products.

  17. This is a joke. There is nothing on the inside of the glass. Micky Ds is a great joint. Glasses are safe. I will head out and pick up a few.

  18. Nice artlcle and pic today in the NYT about this…way to go, Jen!

  19. Dave Chapman says:

    Actually, ARC International, of Millville, NJ is just a sales office.
    The parent company is a privately held French corporation,
    and the production facility is apparently located in

    –wait for it–

    Nanjing, China.

    So, there.


  20. Cadmium is also present in some of the fluoride chemicals that are voluntarily added to public water supplies. See:

    Ironically, California legislator, Jackie Speir, who revealed that McDonald’s glasses were cadmium tainted, was at the forefront of mandating these cadmium-laced fluoride chemicals be injected into all California public supplies, around 1995.

  21. Jennifer says:

    Kit – I did test the glass first to see what was in it, and then tested the paint plus glass. There was no cadmium detected in the glass. I left the paint scraping and digestion up to the CPSC’s laboratory.

  22. Organic Mommy says:

    Without a doubt, cadmium is very toxic and compounds containing cadmium can be carcinogenic. However, it surprises me that cadmium was found instead of lead.
    There is light on the other side of the tunnel. Cadmium absorption is reduced by zinc, calcium and selenium.

  23. found your site on today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

  24. Who cares????!!! You people are CRAZY!!!!!!! Ambulance-chasing deadbeat parasitic vultures, feeding off of the producer class. Lawyers—blechhhh!!! Kill the all!

  25. Seriously…who tests this at their house? Recalling a product because you tested it at your house…ok…do you realize how many chemicals are on everything in this world? I have them and use them everyday. My kids and I are fine. It contains so little that you would have to eat the paint off of every single glass made probably to feel the effects….please Its funny how everyone slams McDonalds but their stocks, sales, and everything else keep going up….either way…its still publicity.

  26. Jennifer says:

    Brandy – The decision regarding the recall rests with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), not me. I tested the glasses and passed along the information to the CPSC. The CPSC conducted its own tests.

  27. Hmmm… that’s an interesting rationalization – “I didn’t do anything, I just reported my finding to the CPSC” Seriously, you think there’s a risk that cadmium molecules will migrate from the underside of a painted surface to a child’s hand, where they will then possibly transfer to food and be ingested… and this is so dangerous it needs to be reported to the CPSC? As opposed to the cadmium molcules that the kids are *directly ingesting* in the fries? Did you report the fries to the CPSC too?

    I don’t mean to come onto your blog – which is clearly aimed at helping those parents who want to avoid contact with chemicals – and be snarky about you doing what you do. You provide a real service for people who what to live as chemically-free as possible. More power to you. But let’s not pretend that you don’t know about the witch-hunt mentality that’s out there right now. I fully support your right to have chemical free options. But I don’t think the rest of us should have to pay for them. I’m not happy that perfectly safe products are being branded as “evil” and the rest of us consumers, who have what I consider to be a more reasonable idea of safety – have to pay the economic premium so that you can take away our choices too. (I know, I know… you didn’t “take away” anything, you just made the call…) Do you care that you’re contributing to putting people like Megan, Matthew Brown and “Not Lovin’ It” in a panic and you’re causing real economic impact that might be better spent on issues where there is actual potential harm? At some point all this crying “wolf” may have a backlash.

  28. Jennifer says:

    Lori – My comment was in response to Brandy’s comment about recalling a product tested at my house. Perhaps I misunderstood her comment, but I was just trying to explain to her that while I did indeed test the products, I did not make any decision to recall them and was not involved in that decision process. It is my understanding that CPSC conducted its own tests, which involved wipe tests and digestive testing, and that information was used to make the decision to request a voluntary recall. I was just trying to clarify that process – that you could say I prompted further testing by the CPSC, not that the recall was based upon my testing.

    Do I generally think cadmium can transfer from a painted surface to a hand and be available for ingestion? Yes, I do. There are many published, peer reviewed articles discussing the issue. There are also studies showing painted surface decal wear occurs in the automatic dishwasher. Historically, the issue has been lead, but cadmium is included in the published literature.

    Do I think the levels I found in the Shrek glasses are sufficient to be a problem in terms of wear – coming off the surface to hands or in a dishwasher? Well, the levels were elevated enough to warrant further testing – digestive and wipe – to see what actually happened. The wipe testing is intended to mimic use. Hence the reason why I passed along the information to the CPSC on 5/26. If I wanted a “witch hunt”, then I would have simply publicized my results then as opposed to letting the CPSC decide what to do. (And, btw, just to clarify, the information on cadmium in french fries wasn’t from any testing I did – that is just a standard available from the FDA.)

    Should there be cadmium in this paint? No, there really isn’t a perfomance reason to have the cadmium in the paint used on these glasses. If you want to argue about cost of doing business, then perhaps we should talk about what it costs other businesses when one business circumvents the law. It appears that McDonald’s may have violated a state law with the glasses (discussed in the post); McDonald’s should have spent money testing with quality control just like its competitors do.

    But is cadmium really the new lead? I don’t think so.

    What is more important is that I think the money could be better spent than on this issue. YES! Of course. I think the CPSIA’s lead content ban that results in no crystal rhinestones on kid’s products is silly. The money involved could be better spent addressing the significant lead based paint issues. But from your comment, it seems I disagree with your basic premise – that the products being sold are perfectly safe. I’m not sure I think all products are perfectly safe.

    And, just to clarify, I do NOT advocate living chemical free. That is ridiculous. Water is a chemical. I do try to provide information so that people can make informed choices to avoid products or chemicals that may have health or environmental impacts.

  29. I am very upset with this ever since we have bought those glasses For my children. My daughter and husband has been throwing up with severe Diarrea Headaches and everything. I think there should deff. be a lawsuit. I am sick of these idiots not being careful. My son and I have not been sick but that is because I have not drank from them and he is only 2 months old. My daughter is only 2 YEARS OLD!!! this is not acceptable!!!!

  30. It is really amazing to me how much this whole thing was hyped up. I just finished reading another article on the Christian Science Monitor website that states “The company announced the recall in an “abundance of caution,” according to a statement, and the CPSC reiterated that the glasses were not toxic.” They go on to state that these glasses will not meet the new standards, which have not been published or released. I am seeing that on multiple forums people think they are getting sick from handling these glasses but how is that possible if they are not toxic.

    Sorry but I just think this got way out of hand and where are the actual published levels detected in these glasses? I have searched everywhere and can’t find an actual results. This article provides some results but tests using the XRF really don’t provide enough information.

  31. Jennifer: I realized my gaffe with the “chemicals” after I read your other posting on that subject. Yes, everything is a “chemical” – I guess I should have said “toxins” (but even water can be “toxic” in volume) – well, anyway, I do support the idea that parents should be able to know what “substances” (does that work?) their kids are exposed to so that they have a reasonable basis for making choices.

    And I realize that you did exactly what any parent with a Thermo Fisher Scientific Niton XRF analyzer would do ;-). You got a high reading and you reported it for further analysis. You didn’t publicize this until the CPSC “encouraged” the recall. So I owe you an apology. My beef is really with the way the CPSC handled this.

    Your info on your XRF readings is the only information I’ve seen disclosed on the cadmium levels, and as you point out, those are total cadmuim and not soluble cadmium. My understanding (and I’m not a molecular chemist) is that cadmium pigments are highly insoluble – so that cadmium pigment (other than via inhalation) is about like crystal rhinestone exposure for lead – really unlikely to result in actual exposure. (This seems to be borne out by the Prop 65 safe harbor levels under the settlement). But there has been no disclosure of the soluble cadmium levels for the paint in the glasses.

    Cadmium pigments (from what I understand, and once again, IANA chemist) have commercial benefit in that they withstand the heat of processing for use on glass and ceramics. So there is a performance benefit – it makes for nicely colored, durable designs on glassware. And McDonald’s didn’t violate any laws – they don’t sell paint in MN (and your posting confuses the standards – it’s only intentional, not incendental, under that MN statute – although that’s a moot point here). I’d be very surprised if these glasses weren’t tested – that’s kind of the point. They followed all the regulations and released a legal product. Then they got caught up in a wave of fear about cadmium that has parents freaked out.

    I’m not losing any sleep over Mickey D’s – they’ll manage to recoup their losses. I’m worried about parents who hear more media frenzy about “toxic” products and don’t know what to believe, and another round of legislation that, in the current atmosphere, could very likely result in the equivalent of “no crystal rhinestones.” If the regulations are reasonable and truly protect consumers, then it’s a worthy expense. But so far that’s not what’s been happening.

  32. This is indeed interesting, even if your coverage is a bit sensationalistic. You are obviously well educated, which comes through in both your scientific explanations and your well written responses to the comments people have left on this blog. I must admit that I am a bit disappointed that you have not tried to quiesce misguided comments like those of the reader Kelly, “I am very upset with this ever since we have bought those glasses For my children. My daughter and husband has been throwing up with severe Diarrea Headaches and everything. I think there should deff. be a lawsuit. I am sick of these idiots not being careful.”

    The problem here is the long term exposure to cadmium and other heavy metals. Such acute symptoms are probably not related to the cups at all. It’s unfortunate that the first thing people do is start throwing around the word lawsuit. McDonald’s might have made a mistake, but they seem to be stepping up, admitting it, and setting a course of action to attempt to rectify the situation.

    Finally, as a health care professional, I’d just like to point out that the average American is much more likely to die from cardiovascular disease resulting from frequent meals as McDonalds and no regular exercise than they are from a cancer/poisoning caused by cadmium in the paint on a happy meal glass.

  33. debbie mother of Two says:

    Wow!!!! I have all four glasses but I have not yet use it at all thank God! I want to knwo what do we have to do? Will we get refound?

  34. Not involved in any lawsuits yet?

    I hope you’re the one being sued before this is over.

  35. Hey there I simply wanted to drop by and say cheers for the data in this posting. I somehow found myself here after browsing up on a bunch of celebrity health and fitness stuff over on Yahoo… guess I sort of lost my focus! Well, I’m off and thanks again for sharing your ideas. I’m going to be back sometime to check out your new blogposts. Regards!

  36. Very nice information.

  37. I want donkey!!! says:

    My girlfriend called me all alarmed telling me to quit using these glasses.
    I told her I would quit using them when she quit smoking…and since neither of us is giving up our poison, we’re taking bets on who kicks the bucket first.
    I’m just ticked that they started this recall before I got my Donkey glass.
    Anyone know where I can get one to complete my set?

  38. We really dig what you write about here. I try and read your blog every day so keep up the good articles!


  40. Not to mention they apparently spray their chicken mcnuggets with TBHQ….

  41. Good disclaimer. Now can you also tell us if you were the “anonymous” tipster for Jackie Speier, an d if so, why anonymous? Obviously a PR boost for her, and seems pretty sneaky, especially if you imply there were two discoveries if both were actually you.n


  1. […] discovered in McDonald's Shrek Glasses. Over 12 Million have been sold, so it's possible that youMcdonalds Recall – Recall Notice: McDonald's Shrek Glasses. Posted by Debbie on Jun 4, 2010 | Comment. Cadmium has […]

  2. […] 12 Million have been sold, so it's possible that you own one. I know that I did since I'm a big fShrek Glass Recall – shrek glass recall Latest News Updates: Cadmium has been discovered in McDonald's Shrek Glasses. […]

  3. […] Cadmium Prompts CPSC Recall of McDonald’s Shrek Forever After Promotional Glasses : The Smart … […]

  4. […] Toxic Cadmium Prompts CPSC Recall of McDonald's Shrek Forever … […]

  5. […] Toxic Cadmium Prompts CPSC Recall of McDonald's Shrek Forever … […]

  6. […] of Products; McDonalds Recall: Should More Have Been Done? Rudolph Charm Bracelets Recall: High leMcdonalds Shrek Glass Recall – McDonald's Shrek Glass Recall: 12 Million Glasses Contain Cadmium; Cadmium Metals and Poisoning: […]

  7. […] how did the CPSC find out about the excess levels in this case? They were tipped off by a consumer who had a testing device of her own. Had this good citizen not tested the glasses, they’d likely still be out […]

  8. […] Toxic Cadmium Prompts CPSC Recall of McDonald’s Shrek Forever After Promotional Glasses : The … […]

  9. […] who used a handheld analyzer to zap the glass and read its heavy metal content. Here’s her take on the danger in the […]

  10. […] Taggart. She was one of the people who submitted testing data to the CPSC, she says in this post. She got several readings of more than 1,000 ppm cadmium on her XRF […]

  11. […] Taggert who used a handheld analyzer to zap the glass and read its heavy metal content. Here’s her take on the danger in the […]

  12. […] Cadmium Prompts CPSC Recall of McDonald’s Shrek Forever After Promotional Glasses : The Smart … […]

  13. […] Jennifer Taggart at The Smart Mama: You pull in to the drive through at McDonald’s and you place your order. And then you ask for some cadmium on the side. […]

  14. […] placing their order, and then asking “for some cadmium on the side.” But alas, there it was on, along with a discourse on how the unfriendly metal had been found in the […]

  15. […] Cadmium Prompts CPSC Recall &#959f McDonald's Shrek Forever Aft&#1077r … […]

  16. […] were two "anonymous tipsters", one of whom is Jennifer Taggart, a regular reader of this blog. Ms. Taggart has acknowledged that cadmium levels on the McDonald's glasses are well within California's Proposition 65 […]

  17. […] Cadmium Prompts CPSC Recall of McDonald’s Shrek Forever After Promotional Glasses : The Smart … […]

  18. […] McDonalds, Cadmium, and Thermo Electron Niton Guns June 4th, 2010 06:03 admin Leave a comment Go to comments Hello there! If you are new here, you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed for updates on this topic.Powered by WP Greet Box WordPress PluginAn anonymous reader writes, snipping from a story at NPR: “‘How did the Consumer Products Safety Commission find out that cadmium, a toxic metal, was present on millions of Shrek drinking glasses now being recalled by McDonald’s? Well, an anonymous person with access to some pretty slick testing equipment tipped off Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) about the problem. Her office confirmed that somebody using a Thermo Electron Niton XRF testing gun found a lot of cadmium, sometimes used in yellow pigments, on the surface of the glasses. The source overnighted glasses to Speier’s office last week, which then turned over the test results and specimens to the CPSC. … By law, no more than 75 parts per million of cadmium is supposed to be present in paint on kids toys. Speier’s office said the amount found on the glasses was quite a bit higher than that.’ Seems like the answer to a previous question about at-home science — this blogger seems to have been one of the anonymous sources.” […]

  19. […] and phthalates in toys, bisphenol A (BPA) in water bottles, flame retardant in pajamas and recently cadmium – a carcinogen – in McDonald’s Shrek glasses, there’s a lot to keep moms and dads on their […]

  20. […] Cadmium Prompts CPSC Recall of McDonald's Shrek Forever After … […]

  21. […] and phthalates in toys, bisphenol A (BPA) in water bottles, flame retardant in pajamas and recently cadmium — a carcinogen — in McDonald’s Shrek glasses, there’s a lot to keep moms and dads on their toes. (Note: McDonald’s is a BlogHer […]

  22. […] million of cadmium should be in any paint on kids toys. According to Speier’s office and a blog written by one of the two tipsters, the amount found in the Shrek glasses was significantly higher […]

  23. […] Cadmium Prompts CPSC Recall &#959f McDonald's Shrek Forever Aft&#1077r … […]

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