On February 4, the US House of Representatives released a staff report detailing the levels of toxic metals found in baby food by big names like Gerber and Nurture. According to the report, heavy metals including arsenic, lead, and cadmium were present in infant foods made by all the tested companies. Even mercury was detected in the food of one of the companies that tested for it.
“Baby food manufacturers hold a special position of public trust,” the report reads.
“Consumers believe that they would not sell products that are unsafe. Consumers also believe that the federal government would not knowingly permit the sale of unsafe baby food.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have both declared inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury as toxic heavy metals. These materials imperil human health, particularly babies and children, who are most susceptible to its toxic effects, according to the report.
“Even low levels of exposure can cause serious and often irreversible damage to brain development,” the document reported.
Research by nonprofit organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) corroborates this claim. According to the HBBF, 95% of tested infant foods contain contaminants that lower the IQ of babies.
“The impacts add up with each meal or snack a baby eats,” the website wrote.
On November 6, 2019, the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy requested internal documents and testing from seven of the largest baby food manufacturers in the US – Nurture, Beech-Nut, Hain, Gerber, Campbell, Walmart, and Sprout Organic. However, only the first four complied with the procedure.
“Exposure to toxic heavy metals causes permanent decrease in IQ, diminished future economic productivity, and increased risk of future criminal and antisocial behavior in children,” according to the report. “Toxic heavy metals endanger infant neurological development and long-term brain function.”
These four metals are part of the WHO’s top 10 chemicals of major public health concern.
“Internal company standards permit dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals, and documents revealed that the manufacturers have often sold foods that exceeded those levels,” the report read.
The Subcommittee recommended the offending companies to perform mandatory testing on finished products, not just individual ingredients; report levels of toxic heavy metals on food labels; and voluntarily phase out toxic ingredients.
The report also advises vigilance on part of the parent to avoid baby goods that contain ingredients testing high in heavy metals.
As for the FDA, the Subcommittee recommended that the agency sets maximum levels of toxic heavy metals permitted in food: “One level for each metal should apply across all baby foods. And the level should be set to protect babies against the neurological effects of toxic heavy metals.”
The FDA does categorize the aforesaid metals as toxic but it has not yet established such a limit in baby foods, CNN reported.
While it has proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion inorganic arsenic in baby rice cereal, HBBF said it is not enough. The group has called on the FDA to set a fully protective limit for arsenic in baby foods.
“The FDA’s proposed limit is too high: it isn’t based on health and doesn’t consider brain impacts for babies,” it was written on the website. “Arsenic is known to cause cancer and pose risks to a child’s developing brain, including reduced IQ. It’s toxic for everyone, but babies are more vulnerable than adults.”
The HBBF advises parents to avoid giving their infants foods made with rice, such as rice cereals and puffs, which contain high levels of arsenic. Safer choices, according to the group, include oatmeal, quinoa, wheat, and mixed grain.
In addition to lacking nutrients and causing tooth decay, teething biscuits also contain heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and cadmium. The HBBF recommends alternatives like frozen bananas, a peeled and chilled cucumber, or a clean cold washcloth for teething babies.