- Manufacturers and the FDA aren’t doing enough to keep toxic heavy metals out of baby foods, a new report says.
- The Congressional report said one company failed to pull products with high levels of arsenic.
- The report urges manufacturers to test their final products and for the FDA to tighten guidance.
Leading baby food brands contain high levels of toxic heavy metals like arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury — and manufacturers aren’t doing enough to protect their youngest customers, a US government report out Wednesday says.
Exposure to heavy metals in childhood is linked to permanent dips in IQ and damaged long-term brain function.
“Today’s report reveals that companies not only under-report the high levels of toxic content in their baby food, but also knowingly keep toxic products on the market,” the House’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy said in a statement.
This is not the first report to raise alarm about toxic metals in baby foods
A February report from the same subcommittee collected documents and test results from seven of the country’s biggest baby food manufacturers. They found the baby foods had up to 91 times the arsenic level, up to 177 times the lead level, up to 69 times the cadmium level, and up to 5 times the mercury level as what’s allowed in bottled water.
The investigators recommended the FDA require baby food manufacturers test finished products for toxic heavy metals and label products that contain them. Manufacturers should also be encouraged to “phase out” ingredients with heavy toxic metals, the report said, while the FDA should set a limit on toxic metals allowed in baby foods.
In the latest report, the subcommittee said the baby food companies haven’t sufficiently changed their ways, and the FDA isn’t acting fast enough.
The report calls out five companies
The report called out Beech-Nut for only recalling two of its six products that contained more inorganic arsenic than the FDA’s limit. “Gerber was even worse,” a statement from the subcommittee said, because despite carrying two products over the FDA’s arsenic limit, the company “took no action to tell the public or get them off the shelves.”
Plum Organics baby foods was also mentioned for its high levels of inorganic arsenic, lead, and cadmium.
The report said Walmart weakened its internal arsenic standard back in 2018, “an extreme course reversal on efforts to protect babies’ neurological development.”
The committee also criticized the companies’ testing practices, calling Sprout “reckless” for testing only once a year and not testing finished products.
The manufacturers maintain their products are safe, and some dispute the report’s claims
In a statement to Insider, Beech-Nut Nutrition said it’s reviewing the report and will work with the FDA and the Baby Food Council on improving industry standards.
A Gerber spokesperson told Insider the company has “a rigorous process for testing finished foods.” She said Gerber didn’t pull its product that independently tested above FDA’s limits for arsenic since the FDA retested it “and confirmed to Gerber that no action was needed.”
Campbell’s, which recently sold Plum Organics, said it’s continued to cooperate with the subcommittee and be transparent about its data. It noted that “certain elements are present throughout the environment and so these substances will be present in food to some extent.”
Walmart wrote in a statement that it adheres to FDA’s guidelines, adding that the FDA “noted in April that its testing shows that children ‘are not at an immediate health risk to exposure.'” It didn’t directly address the claim of weakened arsenic standards.
Sprout Organic Foods did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
How parents can avoid toxic metals in baby foods
The report says the FDA needs to speed up its publishing of final limits of toxic metals in baby foods and require companies to conduct finished-product testing. In the meantime, manufacturers should voluntarily test finished products and phase out those with the most problematic ingredients, like rice, the report says.
Dr. Rashmi Jain, a concierge pediatrician and founder of BabiesMD, recommended parents stay away from fruit juices and emphasize a varied diet to help avoid toxic metals, she told Insider after the February report. Regular pediatrician visits can identify development problems, whether influenced by a child’s diet or something else.
“Small amounts of some metals and minerals are actually important for our body to function,” Jain said. “Higher levels of these metals in the body does not mean our children will definitely develop neurotoxicity, it just increases their risk.”
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