- Heavy metals such as lead and arsenic can accumulate in the body and impair brain development in children.
- A recent congressional report has found evidence of heavy metals in baby food from four leading brands.
- FDA is yet to set limits for minimum levels of metals in baby food.
In 2019, the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy conducted an investigation, collecting data from seven leading baby food manufacturers. Only four of the companies submitted their data. These included Nurture, Beech-Nut, Hain, and Gerber. The report was released on Thursday, 4th February. According to the congressional investigation, all four companies had dangerously high levels of heavy metals in baby food.
The subcommittee found levels as high as hundreds of parts per billion (ppb) for lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. These metals are included in WHO’s 10 major chemicals of concern list. Although the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has set maximum allowable levels for these metals in certain products, they are yet to establish an allowable limit for baby food.
Heavy Metals in Baby Food Endangers Long-Term Brain Function
Most heavy metals, such as lead and arsenic, exist naturally in the soil. Therefore, they can easily pass into crops. However, some soil may contain a greater amount due to the excessive use of pesticides and water contamination due to pollution. Over time, the levels of metals can build up in a person’s body and cause adverse effects. In young children, these metals can impact brain development. Moreover, they can also cause behavioural problems in children later on in life.
According to the congressional report, baby food ingredients in certain products contained levels far beyond those of other products. Irrespective of whether the baby food was organic or not. The findings revealed up to 91 times the arsenic levels, up to 177 times the lead level, up to 69 times the cadmium level, and up to 5 times the mercury levels allowed for bottled water.
The subcommittee revealed that manufacturers knowingly sold these products without any warning labels. Therefore, they call for the FDA to standardize maximum levels for each of the metal that is toxic to babies and apply them to all foods. They further recommend mandatory testing of baby food products, not just ingredients, before placing it on shelves.
Meanwhile, the subcommittee urges parents to avoid baby foods that contain ingredients with high metals, especially rice products.
Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy