Popular baby foods contain arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury, Congress says

WASHINGTON — A subcommittee for the House Oversight Committee has found that many popular brands of baby food may have high levels of toxic heavy metals.

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The Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy released its report that states that some baby foods have heavy metals like arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury, The Washington Post reported.

The toxic metals were found in rice cereals, sweet potato puree, juices and sweet snack puffs.

“Dangerous levels of toxic metals like arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury exist in baby foods at levels that exceed what experts and governing bodies say are permissible,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, (D.-Ill.) said, according to CNN. Krishnamoorthi is the chair of the subcommittee.

Read the report here or below.

2021-02-04 ECP Baby Food Staff Report by National Content Desk on Scribd

Gerber, Beech-Nut, HappyBABY and Earth’s Best Organic all submitted internal testing documents at the subcommittee’s request.

Cambell’s Soup, the parent company of Plum Organics; Walmart, which has its own brand Parent’s Choice; and Sprout Organic Foods did not comply with the request, committee members told the Post.

However, Cambell’s did release a statement saying in part, “We responded quickly to their questions, which you can read here, and never refused anything requested of us. We are surprised that the Committee would suggest that Campbell was less than full partners in this mission. We welcomed the opportunity to work with the Committee in 2019—and continue to do so today.”

Read Campbell’s entire statement here.

Krishnamoorthi said the data shows that some baby foods have hundreds of parts per billion of dangerous metals, but he told CNN, “we should not have anything more than single-digit parts per billion of these metals in any of our foods.”

The World Health Organization calls arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury the top chemicals for concern when it comes to infants and children.

Researchers claim the chemicals can cause permanent brain injury that could result in lower IQs and problems in school, CBS News reported.

They are natural elements and are present in the soil where crops are grown, so they can’t be avoided, but some areas have more toxic levels than others because of overuse of pesticides and industrial pollution, CNN reported.

The metals have been linked to cancer, chronic disease and neurotoxic effects. They pose a threat to brain development in babies, CNN reported. Despite the dangers, the Food and Drug Administration has not set a standard for allowable levels of lead, cadmium and mercury in foods. But it has set a standard 100 parts per billion of inorganic arsenic for infant rice cereal, but that is still too much some experts say, citing a level of 10 parts per billion of the same element in bottled water, the Post reported.

Gerber stands by the safety of its baby food, telling CNN prior to the release of the report, “All our foods meet our safety and quality standards, which are among the strictest in not just the U.S., but the world. Gerber foods are backed up by rigorous oversight at all levels of the growing and production process. Where government standards don’t exist, we develop our own rigorous standards by applying the latest food safety guidance.”

Gerber cites the source of the metals in the soil and that they take steps to mitigate the risk, including rotating crops and testing the ingredients used.

Beech-Nut said it started testing for heavy metals 35 years ago and tests for up to 255 contaminants to make sure the ingredients meet the company’s standards.

Happy Baby said it “does not sell any products that have not been rigorously tested, and do not have products in-market with contaminant ranges outside of the limits set by the FDA.”

The company said that the results of the 2019 report came from small parts of Happy Baby’s portfolio, and not the entire catalog of products and that the company supplied the highest number for lead results, which the company said has not been replicated in testing, for “completeness and transparency,” CNN reported.

The FDA is now reviewing the subcommittee’s findings, but also said, “Sampling of infant rice cereal showed that since 2016 manufacturers have made significant progress in reducing arsenic in infant rice cereal products, demonstrating that this action level is achievable by industry,” CNN reports.