A congressional report found that some of the products made by large commercial baby food manufacturers in the United States contain heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead, that can endanger infant health.
The report issued by the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy revealed that high levels of heavy metals were present in rice cereals, purees and juices made by trusted names in baby food, such as Gerber and Nurture. Subcommittee Chair Raja Krishnamoorthi said the levels exceed what experts consider permissible.
The subcommittee launched an investigation after learning that toxic, heavy metals were present in 95 percent of commercially available baby foods in a study by Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF). HBBF is an alliance of nonprofit organizations that seek to reduce babies’ exposure to toxic metals and chemicals.
Some commercially available baby foods contain toxic metals
Gerber, Nurture, Beech-Nut and Hain Celestial all complied with the subcommittee’s request to submit testing documents. Campbell, Walmart and Sprout Foods declined to cooperate.
The documents revealed the following:
- Gerber used rice flour with over 90 parts per billion (ppb) arsenic and used ingredients with 48 ppb lead. Gerber used carrots with as much as 87 ppb cadmium as well.
- Through its HappyBABY line, Nurture sold baby food with as much as 180 ppb arsenic, 641 ppb lead and 10 ppb mercury.
- Through its Earth’s Best Organic line, Hain Celestial sold products with up to 129 ppb arsenic. They used ingredients with as much as 309 ppb arsenic, 352 ppb lead and 260 ppb cadmium as well.
- Beech-Nut used ingredients with as much as 913.4 ppb arsenic, 886.9 ppb lead and 344.55 ppb cadmium.
Overall, the subcommittee said these findings highlight the need for more stringent regulation of baby food. In addition, the findings emphasize the need for mandatory testing of heavy metals in the ingredients used and in the final product.
Meanwhile, Krishnamoorthi said the lack of participation of the other three companies raises the possibility of their products containing levels of heavy metals higher than those of their competitors.
Heavy metals like arsenic and lead are known causes of neurodevelopmental harm, said Philip Landrigan, who worked on the 2019 study by HBBF. Even in trace amounts typically found in many commercially available food products, these toxic metals can alter a developing brain and erode a child’s intelligence quotient.
In fact, no safe level of exposure to heavy metals has been identified to date. This is why previous studies show that even very low exposure levels can lead to attention deficits and behavioral problems.
According to Krishnamoorthi, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must set standards and regulate the baby food industry more closely. The FDA said it will review the subcommittee’s findings. (Related: Researchers have found illegal levels of ARSENIC in baby rice food products.)
Protecting babies from toxic metals in food
Heavy metals can be found in all kinds of processed food products, including fresh foods like fish. Nonetheless, parents can still take certain steps to reduce their babies’ or young children’s exposure to heavy metals. Here is what parents can do:
- Focus on a balanced diet – Making sure your child is eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods helps to limit the amount of heavy metals that could be in any one food source.
- Pick healthy snacks – Processed snacks are more likely to contain heavy metals than fresh fruits, eggs and other healthy snacks.
- Avoid rice cereal – Baby rice cereal has been shown to contain inorganic arsenic, which the body more readily absorbs.
- Stick to homemade juices – Previous tests showed flavored juices and chocolate-flavored drinks may contain traces of lead, cadmium and inorganic arsenic.
Go to HeavyMetals.news for more articles on the health risks associated with toxic metals.