Bad baby food
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?
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
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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Baby food is harmful! On the dangers of certain types of baby food
At the bottom of the article are horrifying examples. And there were important clarifications in the comments. 12/05/2018.
1. Truths and lies about infant formula
Manufacturers advertise formula and complementary foods that their products have passed the highest quality standards. But is it always like this?
We are assured that such and such mixtures practically do not differ from breast milk, and some even go so far as to start talking about the impact of bad ecology on breast milk. They say that the cows from whose milk mixtures are made breathe environmentally friendly air, unlike the inhabitants of the metropolis, so isn’t it better to pay money for the mixture than to feed yourself . ..
But how much truth is there in all these arguments of financially interested manufacturers that commercially produced food for children undergoes such quality control that it turns out to be purer ... mother's milk?!
The theme of World Breastfeeding Week 1997 was "Breastfeeding the natural way". Here is the information (translated into Russian) circulated there about this difference between breast milk and formula:
“Baby food is a commercially produced food that undergoes multiple processing in the process of modifying and supplementing cow's milk and turning it into an enriched powder. Not surprisingly, the danger of infection with harmful bacteria, radioactive and chemical substances, foreign bodies and insects has been proven. In addition, water, when mixed with powder, creates an additional risk of infection compared to breastfeeding.” nine0003
Breast milk is a living substance. Each woman's milk is individually produced for her own baby. What's more, her milk is constantly changing - both during one feeding and from day to day - to meet the needs of the child in development. When the mother is exposed to pathogens, she produces antibodies to fight them. Maternal antibodies come to the baby with her breast milk.
2. Horrifying examples:
1997 - United Kingdom: Milumil withdrawn from sale due to salmonella contamination. nine0003
1997 - USA: Nestlé formula was recalled by the Federal Drug and Food Administration due to adulteration and production under unsanitary conditions. Its use caused gastrointestinal disorders.
See even more valuable stuff in my Telegram! (completely new channel).
1996 - USA: Heinz baby apple and prune juice was recalled because it contained lead in excess of the legal limit.
1994 - SRI LANKA: Customs returned a large shipment of Nestle dry mix imported from Poland due to radioactive contamination! nine0003
1993 - USA: Nutramigen formula recalled after it was found to contain broken glass.
1993 - USA: Soyalac formula recalled due to salmonella contamination.
1992 - India: Live black insects and worms have been found in packages of the Lactogen mixture.
Industrial pollution means that toxic substances, including dioxins and biphenyls, are found in our food, in our bodies and in our environment. Due to their wide distribution, they are also found, along with other contaminants, in some samples of cow's milk and breast milk. nine0003
However, the benefits of breast milk far outweigh any possible risks, and recommends breastfeeding as the preferred alternative to any alternative.”
See even more valuable stuff in my Telegram! (completely new channel).
One might assume that 10 years have passed since 1997, and perhaps the general trends in the production of mixtures have changed. After all, do we really lie when they write about the safety of all these products for the health of our children? We open any children's magazine, and there we will certainly see soothing words about “the strictest control of suppliers and the quality of raw materials”, about “multi-level quality control of finished products” ...
Alas, during these ten years the manufacturers have made some progress, if only in the art of keeping silent about problems. Here are just some of the reasons for formula and baby food recalls around the world since 1997:
- Also in 1997, 2,141,880 Gerber jars of carrot complementary foods were recalled due to high levels of arsenic.
- In 1998, 25,760 Heinz cans of complementary foods were recalled due to high levels of lead.
- at 1999g. 126,456 cans of Heinz Broccoli, Carrot & Cheese baby food recalled due to solid plastic pieces in complementary foods.
- In 2000, after a long disregard for local health authorities, HiPP recalled its HA1 blend. The catastrophic excess of heavy metals in the mixture already sold led to the fact that the company received claims from several dozen parents whose children became disabled with kidney pathology. nine0003
- Various Mead Johnson formulas were recalled several times in 2001 due to packaging errors that labeled dairy-free products containing milk proteins. Considering that products with this label are bought specifically for children with allergies to milk proteins, one can only guess how many babies have suffered because of these errors.
- The year 2002 was rich in tragic cases due to the mistakes of the mixture manufacturers. Initially, 17,358 cans of Mead Johnson's Portagen formula were recalled because the mixture was contaminated with Enterbacter sakazakii, a bacterium that causes sepsis, meningitis and necrotizing enterocolitis in immunocompromised children. The reason for this particular recall was the death of a child due to an illness caused by the use of an infected mixture. Then, due to contamination with the same bacterium, several batches of a number of formulas under various names - a total of 1.5 million cans - were recalled by Wyeth Nutritionals. nine0003
- In 2003, Mead Johnson's EnfaCare Lipil formula is again recalled due to infection with the same bacteria!
- in 2003, a scandal broke out with the Remedia Super Soya 1 mixture, which was produced in Israel by the Humana company - an insufficient content of vitamin B1 caused the hospitalization of more than 20 children, and three babies died.
- In 2005 Ross Products' Similac iron mix - 82,986 cans - recalled due to active PVC content. nine0003
- In 2006, ready-to-use bottled formulas Similac (200,000 bottles) and Alimentum (100,000 bottles) from the same manufacturer were recalled. The reason was a deficiency of vitamin C, which could manifest itself in infants who consumed this mixture for more than 2-4 weeks.
So let's just be glad that we who are breastfeeding our babies don't have to play the gloomy lottery with our babies' health, not knowing what exactly can be in any of the purchased cans of industrial baby food ...
Specific baby foodSpecific baby food
Meals for children has its own characteristics and complexities.
When planning a child's diet, consider certain features of the child's body. nine0076 Child growth
The main difference between baby food is the growth of the child's body. That is, a baby needs more protein than an adult. Knowing about it many adults make the mistake of focusing on creating a high protein diet, although even ordinary protein foods consumed by adults contain
more protein than breast milk.
Another feature of baby food is that children are very mobile in different from adults. Greater mobility of the child's body contributes to exchange normalization. If children are forcibly restricted in their movements, this provokes insufficient secretion of growth hormones, diseases, and as a result - developmental delay.
Consumption of sweets
Due to the high metabolic rate, children, unlike adults, are able to absorb significantly more sweets without much harm to themselves. However, they should not be encouraged to do so. Although sweet foods are natural origin are very beneficial for the child. nine0003 About cholesterol
In addition, children are much more active than adults. use cholesterol. It is very important for health, is the main component of the membrane, which surrounds cells throughout the body. And the child grows, and he forms a lot new cells.
An important nuance is the fat cells that make up the "fat" according to most are formed during the first years of life. Subsequently they grow and grow in size. Therefore, what it looks like an adult is largely associated with nutrition in childhood. nine0076 Regulatory Excellence mechanisms
Most important feature baby food . Regulatory mechanisms in the child's body controlling the inflow and outflow of energy, function perfectly. Him The body knows exactly what food and in what quantities it needs. However, if there is an abundance of deliciously cooked (with spices, fried, fatty and etc.) and sweet dishes, the appetite will be coordinated by the tongue, and not by the physiological need. nine0003
This level of regulation remains until the age of 14-17. Further it is preserved under the condition that a person leads a healthy lifestyle.
You can identify a number of general rules - recommendations, to which it makes sense to listen in order to provide the child with the right diet.
1 baby food rule - diet
Proper nutrition of a child presupposes the absence of strict dietary compliance.
What kind of lunch if you need to launch a rocket or put a doll to bed sleep? Such matters are as important for a child as love is for an adult, interesting work, rest. Children are tiny but full-fledged people who are still in need of care.
In addition, when there is no feeling of hunger, then eat the body is not yet ready to eat, eat without pleasure, therefore food won't go well. When hungry, the baby will ask for it. And there is no problem in that the child ate instead of three, two or five times a day. If food normal and do not use violence against the child, then there will be neither malnutrition nor overeating. nine0003
Baby food rule 2 - non-violence In most cases, the child is persuaded to "eat for dad, grandfather, mother, etc.", or they simply order "until you finish eating, you won’t get up from the table." And if we imagine how we would feel in such a situation? The baby's body does not need food at the moment, so he does not want to, only Total. Appetite may arise after some time, and there is no point in being offended. However, the appetite should be for natural products - porridge, potatoes, apple, milk, not sweets and cookies. In some cases, however, there are whims and tricks. nine0004 3 child nutrition rule - diseases
Separately, it is worth dwelling on proper nutrition children with diseases. very wide the practice of "feeding" sick children is practiced. There is an opinion that this gives the body extra energy to fight the disease.
Paradox - in following: the body really needs strength, it mobilizes all the resources to restore the shattered balance. And the patient has no appetite because all the energy is directed to the fight against the disease, and it simply does not remains on the process of digestion. Animal instinct is at work here. is aimed at survival, and no food simply "climbs". For example, patients animals do not touch food, even if it lies in front of their noses. nine0076 And force-feeding for medicinal purposes directly harm the child.
Preferably, offer him hot drink - tea with honey, warm fruit drink, etc.
4th rule - freedom in everyday nutrition
In terms of everyday nutrition, it is better if children have choice of products. Thus, the problem itself is solved nutritionally balanced flax substances and dietary calories.
Based on long-term observations, it was found that with the presence of freedom of choice, children at the level of intuition or subconsciousness are able to create a menu that will be the best in every respect. adult function here - to orient the child in relation to the correct combination of products.
5 rule - fruit
Children can eat fruits without any restrictions, it is almost impossible to overeat them, and they are very useful. But if the child refuses, no need to force. With a lack of any mineral or vitamin, the child himself will ask he needs an apple or even greens. nine0003
It is only necessary to coordinate the combination of fruits with other products. These combination rules are objective for both children and adults. If the products are combined correctly, healthy children will lack gas emission, the stool will be odorless with a normal consistency, the tongue will be red and clean.
6 children's rule nutrition - protein food
Protein food should be given to the child 1-2 times a day for desire, but do not worry if he prefers rice or potatoes instead of cottage cheese or pea porridge. But an excess, like a lack of protein, can lead to unpleasant consequences. nine0003
You should not teach a child to sausage, because it unnatural food that deceives the taste organs. From natural products origin, the child should be able to choose from what they eat adults.
7 baby food rule - dairy products
Milk, curdled milk, kefir, yogurt represent makes great food for kids. However, they should not be combined with starches. A child at the age of one and a half should not be fed with cereals for milk. The best option is milk and dairy products (room temperature) give as a separate meal. good variation is a combination of cottage cheese with tomatoes (carrots) with kefir, yogurt or milk. nine0004 8 baby food rule - sweets
If you feed your child with sweets, then definitely not after eating. Better just give half an hour - an hour before the main meal. As a rule, they always give after.
Sweet is really necessary for the children's body. Sweets natural origin - fruits, honey, dried fruits cover the needs child's body.
In case of painful conditions, reduced immunity, good options will offer him soaked dried fruits, fruits, melons, watermelons and hot drinks. And no more dishes and products. Several of these days month will replenish the resources of the child's body. nine0076
9 baby food rule - water
Water should be given as much as how much the child wants. The best is melt water. It is advisable to gradually teach the child to drink a quarter - half a glass of water.