Baby food heavy metals list

What Can Parents Do About Heavy Metals in Baby Food? (for Parents)

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD

en español ¿Qué pueden hacer los padres sobre los metales pesados que contiene la comida de sus bebés?

I've heard about heavy metals in baby food. How can I keep my baby safe?
- Keeley

Heavy metals are found in soil, water, and the air we breathe. Plants take up these metals as they grow and can end up in the food we eat. Our bodies need some heavy metals (like iron and zinc) to work well, but other heavy metals (like arsenic and lead) are harmful. Some crops, like rice, absorb more of these harmful metals than others. Heavy metals can build up in the body over time and cause problems with learning, behavior, and attention.

When making baby food, companies add vitamins and minerals along with food additives that may contain heavy metals. Some baby foods have higher levels of heavy metals than others, including:

  • infant rice cereal
  • infant rice puff snacks
  • teething biscuits and rice rusks
  • fruit juice
  • carrots and sweet potatoes

Even organic baby food can have heavy metals in it.

The amount of heavy metals is low in baby foods, but you can take steps to lower it even more. Here are ways to do that:

  • Offer your baby a variety of healthy foods. Eating a balanced diet can lower your baby's overall exposure to heavy metals.
  • Don't only give infant rice cereal. Give your baby other cereals like oatmeal, barley, quinoa, and multigrain cereals.
  • Keep giving carrots and sweet potatoes. They contain important nutrients, but serve them along with other fruits and vegetables.
  • Don't give your baby fruit juice. Juice is not recommended for children under 1 year old because it can cause cavities and weight gain. Formula or breast milk for infants and water and milk for older children are the best drinks. Instead of juice, give your baby fruit because it has more fiber and nutrients.
  • Make your own baby food. You can avoid additives and baby foods with high levels of heavy metals by making your own. Serve the same foods your family eats, prepared in a way that your baby can eat. Infants just starting solid food will need smooth purées.
  • Choose white basmati rice and sushi rice when making rice dishes. These kinds of rice have less arsenic than other types. Rinse rice thoroughly before cooking. Cook rice in plenty of water, and then drain off the extra water. This helps lower the amount of arsenic.
  • Limit baby food snacks, including rice puffs and oat ring cereals. Instead of processed snacks, give your baby puréed, mashed, or soft foods that are rich in nutrients, such as fruit, vegetables, eggs, cheese, or yogurt. This also helps your baby eat less added sugar, salt, and refined flour. If you serve your baby prepared snacks, choose rice-free or multigrain options.
  • Don't use teething biscuits. Instead, give your baby a cold (not frozen) teether or wet washcloth to chew on.
  • Test your water. Tap water may have lead in it from lead pipes. Well water may contain lead and other heavy metals.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD

Date reviewed: March 2021

Homemade baby food contains as many toxic metals as store bought, report says

CNN  — 

Making baby food at home with store-bought produce isn’t going to reduce the amount of toxic heavy metals in the food your baby eats, according to a new report released exclusively to CNN.

“We found no evidence to suggest that homemade baby foods made from store-bought produce are better than store-bought baby foods when it comes to heavy metal contamination,” said the paper’s coauthor Jane Houlihan, research director for Healthy Babies, Bright Futures. An alliance of nonprofits, scientists and donors, HBBF, which produced the report, has a stated mission of reducing babies’ exposures to neurotoxic chemicals.

READ MORE: Manufacturers allowed baby food contaminated with heavy metals to remain on shelves, lawmakers say

Researchers tested 288 foods bought at stores and farmers markets across the United States – including grains, fruits, vegetables, snacks, teething foods, and family items that babies eat, such as cereals and rice cakes – for lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium. Those heavy metals are among the World Health Organization’s top 10 chemicals of concern for infants and children.

“Toxic metal exposure can be harmful to the developing brain. It’s been linked with problems with learning, cognition, and behavior,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Researchers also pored over data from 7,000 additional food tests reported in published studies and by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Results showed 94% of manufactured baby foods, family foods and homemade purees made from purchased raw foods contained detectable amounts of one or more heavy metals.

Lead was found in 90% of manufactured baby food bought by shoppers for the report and 80% of store-bought family food and homemade purees. There is no safe level of lead, according to the AAP.

Arsenic was found in 68% store-bought baby food and 72% of family food either purchased or prepared at home. Cadmium was found in 65% of purchased baby food and 60% of family foods, and mercury was in 7% of store-bought baby food and 10% of family foods. (The highest levels of mercury are found in seafood, which was not tested in this analysis.)

READ MORE: 95% of tested baby foods in the US contain toxic metals, report says

The new report is a follow-up to a November 2019 report in which Healthy Babies, Bright Futures tested 168 foods purchased from major baby food manufacturers. That analysis found 95% of store-bought baby food contained lead, 73% contained arsenic, 75% contained cadmium and 32% contained mercury. One-fourth of the foods tested that year contained all four heavy metals.

“After that report we saw so many people saying you can get around this problem by making your own baby food at home, so we decided to check,” Houlihan said. “We suspected we’d find heavy metals in all kinds of food because they’re ubiquitous contaminants in the environment.

“And that is exactly what we found – heavy metals were in foods from every section of the store,” Houlihan said. “What this says is that as the FDA is setting standards for heavy metals in baby food, they need to go beyond the baby food aisle.”

What’s a parent or caregiver to do? Feed baby with as many different types of foods as possible, said pediatrician Dr. Mark Corkins, chair of the Committee on Nutrition of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He was not involved in the study.

“If you spread foods out, and offer a wide variety of options, you’ll have less toxicity,” Corkins said. “And nutritionally that’s always been the right thing to do to get the most micronutrients from the food you eat.”

The report found buying organic didn’t lower heavy metal levels either, which was “not shocking or surprising,” said Corkins, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

“It’s the soil and water that’s contaminated with arsenic and other heavy metals, so it doesn’t matter if it’s organic or traditional farming methods,” Corkins said. That would apply to locally grown crops or even backyard gardens, if the soil had not been verified to be metal-free.

However, buying organic can help avoid other toxins the new report did not consider, such as herbicides and pesticides, said Dr. Leonardo Trasande, director of environmental pediatrics at NYU Langone Health. He was not involved in the study.

“There are other benefits to eating organic food, including a reduction in synthetic pesticides that are known to be as bad for babies, if not even more problematic,” Trasande said.

READ MORE: Doctors should test levels of PFAS in people at high risk, report says

“We’ve seen multiple studies show significant effects of synthetic pesticides on cognitive function in children as a result of prenatal exposure. We’ve seen images of the brain where certain parts are smaller that are crucial for higher order functioning after exposure,” he added. “A simple step would simply be to say eat organic because regardless of anything we’re talking about in this report, it’s good for you.”

Experts agree that battling toxins in baby foods is a job for government organizations who will need to work with growers, suppliers and manufacturers to institute regulations and safeguards. In the meantime, parents can make a difference.

“Making even one simple choice every day to lower a child’s exposure will make a difference, whether that’s staying away from rice-based snacks and serving a diced apple instead or choosing not to serve carrots and sweet potatoes every day,” Houlihan said.

“With heavy metals and other toxins the risks add up over a lifetime,” she added. “So even if some of these foods had been served to a child up to their second birthday, starting from there to lower exposure to toxins is going to add up. Every choice matters.”

Tested foods with low metal content contain one-eighth as much heavy metal contamination as foods with the highest levels, Houlihan said. These are foods that can be “eaten freely,” the report suggested.

Fresh bananas, with heavy metal levels of 1.8 parts per billion, were the least contaminated of foods tested for the report. That’s an “82-fold difference in average level of total heavy metals” from the most contaminated food, rice cakes, which tested at 147 parts per billion, according to the investigation.

READ MORE: ‘Consider chemical hazards’ in the baby foods you sell, FDA warns manufacturers

After bananas, the least contaminated foods were grits, manufactured baby food meats, butternut squash, lamb, apples, pork, eggs, oranges and watermelon, in that order. Other foods with lower levels of contamination included green beans, peas, cucumbers, and soft or pureed home-cooked meats, the report found.

Infant formula made with lead-free tap water was recommended. Tap water that has been tested and is free of lead is always a good choice. Milk is also a good choice, but only for babies 12 months and older.

Some healthy lower-metal foods, such as yogurt, unsweetened applesauce, beans, cheese, hard-boiled eggs and grapes that have been cut lengthwise, were good choices for snacks for babies, according to the report.

Fresh and frozen fruit – including those used in homemade purees – were options as well. But don’t use canned fruits if you can avoid it: “Tests find lead 30 times more often in canned fruit than in fresh and frozen fruit,” the report stated.

Parents and caregivers can also lower their baby’s exposure to heavy metals by making some smart substitutions, the report said.

Using a frozen banana for a teething baby instead of a rice-based teething biscuit or rice rusk could lower total intake of heavy metals by 95%, according to the report. Another suggested teething aid: peeled and chilled cucumber spears.

The most heavily contaminated foods eaten by babies were all rice-based: “Rice cakes, rice puffs, crisped rice cereals and brown rice with no cooking water removed are heavily contaminated with inorganic arsenic, which is the more toxic form of arsenic,” Houlihan said.

Arsenic is a natural element found in soil, water and air, and because rice is grown in water, it is especially good at absorbing inorganic arsenic. (“Inorganic” is a chemical term and has nothing to do with the method of farming.) Brown and wild rice are the worst offenders, as the bran contains the highest arsenic concentrations.

READ MORE: New FDA limits on arsenic levels in infant rice cereals don’t adequately protect children, critics say

Prior research has shown that even low levels of inorganic arsenic exposure can impact a baby’s neurodevelopment. A meta-analysis of studies on the topic found a 50% increase in arsenic levels in urine would be associated with a 0.4-point decrease in the IQ of children between the ages of 5 and 15.

Testing by HBBF found rice cakes were the most contaminated with inorganic arsenic, followed by crisped rice cereal, rice-based puffs and brown rice. The report recommended those foods be avoided entirely, unless the brown rice is cooked with extra water that is poured off before consumption (much like pasta). It’s best to do that with all rice, including white and wild rice, the report said, as it can reduce arsenic levels by up to 60%.

Rice-based teething biscuits or rusks and white rice came next on the most contaminated list, the report said. White rice is milled to remove the outer layers, but experts say arsenic levels remain high enough to be concerning, especially if rice is a daily staple.

“Inorganic arsenic averaged 100 parts per billion in brown rice infant cereal and 74 parts per billion in white rice infant cereal in our tests,” Houlihan said. “Baby food companies have taken brown rice cereal off the market because of its high arsenic levels.”

READ MORE: Water- and stain-resistant products contain toxic plastics, study says. Here’s what to do

Parents and caregivers can help by staying away from high-arsenic varieties of white rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, or simply “US” and instead choosing lower-arsenic basmati rice from California, India and Pakistan, as well as sushi rice from the US, the report said.

After rice-based foods, the analysis found the highest levels of heavy metals in raisins, non-rice teething crackers, granola bars with raisins and oat-ring cereals. But those were not the only foods of concern: Dried fruit, grape juice, arrowroot teething crackers and sunflower seed butter all contained high amounts of at least one toxic metal, according to the report.

“Many foods have a kind of unique, heavy metal profile,” Houlihan explained. “For example, we saw very high levels of cadmium in things like spinach, leaf lettuce and peanut butter.”

However, the human body doesn’t absorb cadmium as easily as other heavy metals, and for that reason “it doesn’t have as high a level of concern,” Houlihan added.

“There’s also not as much evidence that cadmium is neurotoxic to babies, or at least the body of evidence isn’t there at the same levels as lead and arsenic,” she said. “Lead and arsenic damage isn’t reversible – these are permanent impacts on IQ, learning ability and behavior, so it’s a big deal.”

Root and tuber vegetables may have higher levels of heavy metals like lead and arsenic because they grow underground. In fact, the investigation found that nutritious baby favorites like carrots, sweet potatoes, squash and many types of potatoes did have concerning levels of heavy metals.

READ MORE: Dangerous chemicals found in food wrappers at major fast-food restaurants and grocery chains, report says

Even the same food could have varying levels of toxic metals, according to the report. For example, a shopper in Raleigh, North Carolina, bought a sweet potato with 60.7 parts per billion of lead – 10 times more than the store-bought sweet potato puree she purchased. A Chicago shopper purchased a fresh carrot with eight times more arsenic than the premade carrot baby food she took home, the investigation found.

Yet shoppers in Tennessee and California found the opposite – their fresh produce had minimal levels of heavy metals compared with the manufactured baby food brands they bought.

“As a parent, you don’t know what you’re picking up out of the produce bin,” Houlihan said. “Is it elevated because of the cultivar – the particular type of sweet potato or carrot? Or is it elevated because it’s grown in an area where the soil has naturally high levels of lead?

Answering these questions will be the responsibility of government regulators and industry, Houlihan said. The FDA has a Closer to Zero campaign, for example, which could take on the issue.

CNN has reached out to the FDA for comment but hasn’t yet received a response.

“And remember, if you’re protecting the basic ingredients that parents are using to make food at home, you’re not only protecting babies and toddlers, you’re protecting pregnant women as well. Babies in utero are particularly vulnerable to toxins while the brain is growing at such a rapid pace.”

With no way of knowing levels of toxic metals in the soil where produce is grown, parents and caregivers need to add one more step to their efforts to avoid these substances, Houlihan suggested. In addition to mixing up the variety of foods and not serving the same options each day, parents can “choose different brands or varieties of foods or shop in different stores from week to week to avoid choosing a high-metal source regularly.

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Heavy metals found in 95% of baby food

Incidents 1097


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According to a recent study, popular baby food jars and cans contain toxic metals that can harm a child's full development.

The study was commissioned by Healthy Babies Bright Futures, a nonprofit organization that includes scientists and pediatricians. In total, 168 baby food items of the main and most popular American brands were selected for testing. Products from Beech-Nut, Earth's Best, Gerber, Kitchdee Organic, Healthy Times, Gerber, HappyBABY, and others have been tested. nine0005

Examination showed that 95% of the samples contained lead, 73% arsenic, 75% cadmium and 32% mercury. One fourth of the products contained all four heavy metals! Each of the five baby foods tested contained more than 10 times the legal lead level. The results of an independent study coincided, in general, with a previous examination commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May of this year, when one or more metals were found in baby food. nine0005

Analysis has shown that jars of rice, sweet potatoes, and fruit juices are the most toxic, which are the foods that babies usually start with. “Even in minimal amounts, these pollutants can negatively impact the developing brain and undermine a child’s IQ. The problem is that they accumulate with every meal,” the report says.

The most "contaminated" rice porridge, rice dishes, rice snacks and rice crackers, as they were "not only inorganic arsenic - the most toxic form of arsenic, but other toxic metals were found in almost all samples," according to report. Arsenic is a natural element found in soil, water and air, with the inorganic form being the most toxic. The "organic" label on the label doesn't help, as it refers to the soil. Because rice is grown in water, it absorbs inorganic arsenic particularly well and has the highest concentration of arsenic of any food, according to the FDA. Most inorganic arsenic is found in brown and wild rice, less in refined white rice. However, studies have shown that even low levels of arsenic exposure can affect a child's neurodevelopment: a 50% increase in urinary arsenic is responsible for a 0. 4 point decrease in a toddler's IQ between the ages of 5 and 15. The lowest content of arsenic is in Gerber rice cereals. nine0005

Baby biscuits (so-called “teething biscuits”), sweet potato and carrot jars also contain arsenic, lead and cadmium, according to research (“cleanest” Beech-Nut carrots and Gerber sweet potatoes, more total arsenic in HappyBABY sweet potatoes). Toxic metals were also found in the most popular children's juices - apple, pear, grape ("Apple & Eve" juices turned out to be cleaner than the rest). Traces of arsenic and lead have also been found in jars of Deluxe Pasta macaroni and cheese, popular with American children, and Cheerios breakfast rings. nine0005

“The harmful effects of lead on the human body have been proven, and for the past 40 years we have been trying to limit its content in toys, paints and food. But completely getting rid of it is still unrealistic, the report says (our newspaper wrote in September this year that lead was found in paint and in drinking fountains in New York schools). “Even very low levels of lead cause academic decline, attention deficits, and behavioral problems. Recently, 80,000 schoolchildren from Detroit and Chicago were examined, and it was children whose bodies had high levels of lead that received negative results on academic testing. In October 2018, the FDA halved the maximum daily limit for lead in baby foods, but our study shows that this is not enough. According to the expert, more than 2.2 million children under the age of six are “infected” with high levels of lead.” nine0005

Experts' conclusion is disappointing: “Despite the FDA's focus on reducing exposure to heavy metals, 148 of 168 infant formulas tested were significantly elevated. And none of the existing baby food manufacturers take into account the neurological effects of exposure to these metals on children.”



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90,000 Dangerous levels of heavy metals and neurotoxins found in baby food. nine0001 Found dangerous levels of heavy metals and neurotoxins in baby food. - PRO AUTISM


Reading time: 2 min.

This article is based on research, that is, it has scientific evidence. Numbers in brackets (1, 2, 3) are active links to publications of peer-reviewed studies.

Hazardous levels of heavy metals in baby food

Read: 1,813

Back in early 2019, the nonprofit Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) and a national volunteer network of seven other nonprofits purchased baby food from stores in 14 major cities across the country.

168 packages with 13 different types of baby food from 61 brands were selected.

All baby food packages have been tested for 4 toxic heavy metals - arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury . Analysis was performed at Brooks Applied Labs, a nationally recognized laboratory with expertise in heavy metal analysis .

The results were as follows: lead was found in 94% of baby food packages, cadmium in 75%, arsenic in 73%, mercury in 32%.

Every fourth package of baby food contained 4 toxic heavy metals at the same time.

Rice-based products ranked first on the black list: rice-based mixtures and cereals for babies, rice-based biscuits, rice-based snacks and cereals. This popular baby food is not only high in inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form of arsenic, but is almost always contaminated with all four heavy metals . Carrots, potatoes and fruit juices are next: apple and grape.

The 25 packages of baby food with the highest levels of arsenic were also selected for the lab to perform another analysis for a specific form of arsenic most toxic to humans, inorganic arsenic.

Four heavy metals that have been found in infant formula are neurotoxins (Grandjean and Landrigan 2006, Sanders 2015). They harm the developing brain and nervous system of the baby, both in the womb and after birth. The consequences of such harm include permanent loss of intellectual ability and behavioral problems. This is confirmed by 23 studies published over the past 7 years (Appendix B). nine0005

These heavy metals are so common in foods eaten by infants and toddlers that every child is exposed to lead, arsenic, and cadmium on a daily basis based on an analysis of federal studies of US child eating patterns and heavy metal levels. in food (Abt 2019b).

Additional analysis of baby food revealed another dangerous neurotoxin, perchlorate.

The Southwest Research Institute lab analyzed 25 packages of baby food for a neurotoxic contaminant called perchlorate. The lab discovered it at 19of 25 foods tested (Appendix D and SWRI 2019). All 19 products with detectable perchlorate also contained heavy metals, and 12 contained four heavy metals at once - cadmium, lead, arsenic and mercury.

Perchlorate interferes with thyroid function, which is essential for brain development. It is also associated with loss of IQ in children born to mothers with thyroid dysfunction, who are even more vulnerable to perchlorate toxicity (Taylor 2014). In 2005, the FDA approved its use as an antistatic agent in plastic food packaging, and in 2016 extended this approval to dry food processing equipment. Perchlorate is also a decomposition product of hypochlorite used to disinfect equipment in the food industry. Its levels in baby food rose sharply from 2005 to 2012 (Abt 2016, EDF 2017b). nine0005

Heavy metals and perchlorates are not the only food contaminants that cause neurodevelopmental disorders in infants. Among recent examples, apples and spinach are often contaminated with organophosphate pesticides, cheeses, including Mac'n' cheese powder, contain phthalate plasticizers and the pesticide glyphosate (FlensborgMadsen 2017, Parvez 2018, Gillam 2017, FOE 2019, EWG 2019 and 2020, CSFPP 2017 ).

In addition to concerns about the amount of heavy metals in infant formulas, their daily intake and consequent daily accumulation and exposure to infants and toddlers is an urgent need to act, the FDA needs to set legal standards for each of these heavy metals in infant formulas. nine0005

What can parents do?

Since the amount of heavy metals varies greatly, the choice of food is of great importance. Here are some ways to reduce heavy metals in a young child's diet.

1. Minimize your consumption of rice-based foods, including rice porridge, cereal, puffed rice, and rice-based teething biscuits. According to a study by the Healthy Babies group, switching from rice-based foods to foods made with oats, corn, barley, or quinoa reduces arsenic intake by 84% and total heavy metals by about 64%. nine0005

Using frozen banana or cucumber slices instead of rice flour biscuits reduces overall heavy metal exposure by about 91%.

2. Switch from fruit juice to water. Fruit juice is not recommended for young children because it contains sugar and is a source of heavy metals. According to the report, switching to water can reduce the consumption of heavy metals by about 68%.

3. Rotate root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes and other vegetables. Root vegetables are in direct contact with the soil and contain higher concentrations of heavy metals than other vegetables. Switching from carrots or potatoes to other vegetables can reduce total heavy metals by about 73%. Root vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, so you don't have to cut them out completely, just use them less frequently. nine0005

Making your own baby food cannot reduce your baby's exposure to heavy metals. This depends on the level of heavy metals in each of the ingredients you use. Organic does not automatically mean that the heavy metal content is lower, because the soil may have been contaminated earlier, generations before it was used, and water runoff from neighboring farms may contaminate common water sources. The advantage of organic food is the absence of pesticides. nine0005

Unfortunately, although the Trump administration was made aware of the dangerous levels of heavy metals in infant formula during a presentation to the FDA on August 1, 2019, no action was taken.

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