The authors of a recent congressional report found toxic heavy metals including arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury in many leading brands of baby food. In addition, some leading manufacturers, including Walmart, Campbell Foods and Sprout Organic Foods, refused to cooperate with the investigation.
Following reports of high levels of toxic heavy metals in baby food in 2019, the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy requested internal documents and test results from seven of the largest manufacturers of baby food in the United States, including both makers of organic and conventional products. The manufactures were Nurture Inc., which sells Happy Family Organics, including baby food products under the brand name HappyBABY; Beech-Nut; Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (Hain), which sells Earth’s Best Organic; Gerber; Campbell Soup Company, which sells Plum Organics; Walmart, which sells Parent’s Choice private brand; and Sprout Organic Foods.
Four of the companies—Nurture, Beech-Nut, Hain, and Gerber—produced their internal testing policies, test results and documentation about what the companies did with ingredients and finished products that exceeded their internal testing limits.
Walmart, Campbell, and Sprout Organic Foods refused to cooperate with the investigation.
According to internal company documents and test results obtained by the Subcommittee, commercial baby foods are tainted with significant levels of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. Exposure to toxic heavy metals causes permanent decreases in IQ, diminished future economic productivity, and increased risk of future criminal and antisocial behavior in children. Toxic heavy metals endanger infant neurological development and long-term brain function.
The subcommittee reported that many of the toxins were present in baby foods made by all responding companies.
The Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization have declared heavy metals dangerous to human health, particularly to babies and children, who are most vulnerable to their neurotoxic effects. Even low levels of exposure can cause serious and often irreversible damage to brain development, according to the authors of the report.
The Subcommittee is recommending that baby food manufacturers should be required by the FDA to test their finished products for toxic heavy metals, not just their ingredients; that manufacturers should by required to report levels of toxic heavy metals on food labels; and that there should be a voluntary phase-out of toxic ingredients.
UK Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Dr. Sandra Bastin, RDN, LDN, said the FDA currently only has specific safety levels for arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, because they are most often found in the food supply. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also monitors heavy metals as environmental contaminants.
The FDA has set the maximum allowable levels for bottled water, at 10 parts per billion for inorganic arsenic, 5 ppb for lead, and 5 ppb for cadmium. The EPA has set the maximum allowable level of mercury at 2 ppb. The manufacturers’ test results of baby foods reported levels above the recommended allowable amounts in water.
Until the federal government takes action, that leaves parents wondering what’s safe to feed their children? Bastin said parents should avoid foods containing rice. Arsenic is found in higher amounts in rice.
“Since arsenic is found in the readily in the soil and water, it’s impossible to avoid completely,” Bastin said. “So, until these laws are put into place, parents may want to avoid baby foods that contain rice.”
For the full report, visit online at oversight.house.gov/news/press-releases/oversight-subcommittee-staff-report-reveals-top-baby-foods-contain-dangerous.