On Feb. 4, a staff report by the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy stated the Food and Drug Administration and World Health Organization have declared some baby food as dangerous for their neurotoxic effects, due to high levels of heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury and more.
According to the report, babies are constantly developing and growing, which causes them to absorb more of these heavy metals into their system as compared to adults. Infant exposure to heavy metals is linked to those children having a lower IQ.
The Subcommittee conducted an internal investigation with four large baby food brands— Nurture Inc., Beech-Nut Nutrition Company, Hain Celestial Group, and Gerber. The products had traces of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury, some of which aren’t screened for before the food is put out for sale.
Wal-Mart, Campbell Soup Company, and Sprout Organic Foods also were asked to be included in the investigation, but declined.
Not just a baby food problem
Some baby food companies specifically screen for heavy metals in their ingredients, such as Cerebelly, Yummy Spoonfuls, Tiny Human Food and more, according to Executive Director of the Clean Label Project, Jackie Bowen.
“The issue with heavy metals in baby food is not just a baby food problem, it’s a food problem,” Bowen said.
Rice, root crops and chocolate all have high risks of heavy metal accumulation due to their proximity to soil, according to Bowen.
“The lead, arsenic, mercury, cadmium are found in air, water, soil, that’s how those metals get into our food,” said Lauren Uhrman, pediatric nurse practitioner at Promedica.
Some parents are now looking to homemade baby food as a possible solution to the dangers of heavy metals, but Bowen explained this isn’t the answer— vegetables are all processed from the same manufacturers. Uhrman also believes homemade baby foods won’t get rid of all heavy metals in babies diets, but it lets parents know what ingredients are in it.
Uhrman also suggests parents try a variety of food ingredients, which will limit the amount of exposure to heavy metals. “Every two days introduce a new type of vegetable, fruit or grain,” said Uhrman. Also, she said parents should avoid rice-based snacks and fruit juice.
“Parents are sometimes inclined to reach for organic options,” said Bowen. Organic ingredients have reduced exposure to pesticides, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program don’t screen for heavy metals.
Uhrman stated parents are always encouraged to speak with their pediatrician with any concerns.
Bowen agreed the best way to counteract the heavy metals is to create a varied diet and recognize ingredients such as rice, chocolate and root vegetables that are high risk for heavy metals.
Local communities can play a part enforcing state governments to create regulations for chemicals, heavy metals and other elements. “Reach out to local and state representatives, and your favorite brands and retailers,” said Bowen. She’s also hopeful the latest report from the House of Representatives will create an investigation and additional action for baby food safety.
“View your dollars as a vote for the food system you believe in, and use your vote wisely,” said Bowen.
For additional information about the baby food studies produced by the Clean Label Project, visit their website here.