Metal in baby food list
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.”
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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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FDA's ongoing analysis finds toxic arsenic, lead in certain baby foods — tips for parents to limit exposure
WASHINGTON - Ongoing food monitoring by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of toxic heavy metals like lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury revealed some concerning levels in the U.S. food supply — with certain baby foods having the most detectable levels of arsenic and lead.
Such heavy metals can negatively affect a baby’s brain development and are among the most common metals that get into food, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
These heavy metals are found naturally in the Earth's crust and are also released into the environment as pollution that gets into the water and soil used to grow food, according to the AAP. The toxins can also get into food from food manufacturing and packaging.
Exposure from all sources "should be minimized," the AAP states.
The FDA’s Total Diet Study Report, released on July 15, summarizes the findings after sampling over 3,200 food and beverage products between the fiscal years 2018 through 2020. It found that almost one-third (32%) of the foods tested contained toxic elements lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury.
Of all the foods tested, the highest levels of lead were found to be in baby food sweet potatoes and teething biscuits, in addition to sandwich cookies and white wine.
Roughly 51% of the baby food samples analyzed had detectable levels of "total arsenic" found in infant cereals and snacks like teething biscuits and puffed snacks.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element. Inorganic forms of arsenic are dangerous and associated with more severe health effects than organic arsenic, although the toxicity of organic arsenic is also being actively studied, the FDA notes.
Foods with the highest levels of inorganic arsenic noted in the report were foods babies and children eat, including crisped rice cereal, baby food rice cereal, puffed snacks, white rice, and baby food mixed multi-grain cereal.
Six baby foods containing rice and/or juice "exceeded" the specific level of total arsenic and were being further analyzed to determine the levels of the dangerous inorganic arsenic.
Rice is often served to infants in the form of infant rice cereal, which is the most commonly consumed infant instant cereal in the U.S., according to the FDA.
Canned tuna had the highest concentrations of mercury, followed by baked cod and baked salmon, the report noted.
The FDA’s recent report is part of its ongoing Closer to Zero action plan to reduce exposure to arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury from foods eaten by babies and young children. This young age group was prioritized because "their smaller body sizes and metabolism make them more vulnerable to the harmful effects of these contaminants," the FDA says on its website.
The Closer to Zero action plan came after a 2019 study by Healthy Babies Bright Futures, an alliance of nonprofits, scientists, and donors aimed at reducing babies’ exposure to toxic chemicals. The study found that 95% of baby foods tested contained one or more toxic heavy metals, which led to the early 2021 Congressional report showing dangerous levels of heavy metals in several top baby food brands.
U.S. congressional investigators requested internal documents and test results from seven of the largest manufacturers of baby food in the U.S. and found that many top baby foods carried dangerous levels of inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury.
The FDA’s Closer to Zero action plan was announced in April 2021 to drive down levels of heavy metals in food. Charlotte Brody, the national director of Healthy Babies Bright Futures, noted how there has been some progress, but more needs to be done.
"The few steps that have been taken, when the FDA has acted, the levels do drop," Brody said, noting how inorganic arsenic levels in infant rice cereal have dropped in recent years. "They need to be acting quicker and more strongly to keep those levels going down."
RELATED: Government report finds ‘alarming levels’ of heavy metals in more baby foods
What are the standards for toxic heavy metals in baby foods?
"We recognize that Americans want zero toxic elements in the foods eaten by their babies and young children. In reality, because these elements occur in our air, water and soil, there are limits to how low these levels can be," the FDA says on its website.
Therefore, the FDA’s goal is to reduce the levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury in baby foods to "the greatest extent possible."
"We are also sensitive to the fact that requiring levels that are not currently feasible could result in significant reductions in the availability of nutritious, affordable foods that many families rely on for their children," the agency adds.
As a result, the Closer to Zero action plan is a multi-phase approach to achieving this goal over time. It is evaluating the scientific basis for "action levels" or standards for toxic metals in various baby foods, as well as other foods commonly eaten by young children. These proposals and finalized decisions are expected to happen through at least 2024.
To date, the FDA has set action levels for lead in apple juice (10 parts per billion, or ppb) and in chocolate and hard candy (100 ppb). It has also set a standard for inorganic arsenic in apple juice (10 ppb) and infant rice cereal (100 ppb).
Additionally, it has established bottled water standards: 5 ppb for lead, 10 ppb for arsenic, 5 ppb for cadmium,and 2 ppb for mercury.
Healthy Babies Bright Futures and other food safety advocates have called on the agency to act quicker in establishing these stands across baby food categories. Brody questioned why bottled water has stronger protection limits than apple juice and infant rice cereal, commonly served to more vulnerable, younger children.
The FDA said in a statement to FOX Television Stations that the agency’s action levels for toxic metals reflect levels at which it "may regard the food as adulterated."
"Our consideration of appropriate action levels may take into account various factors, including whether they may result in reductions in exposure to toxic elements and whether the action levels are achievable," the FDA said in the statement. "To the extent that you are comparing water and apple juice, it is important to realize that consumption of water is greater than apple juice. Additionally, it is important to realize that processors can take steps to reduce lead in bottled water more easily than apple juice."
The FDA’s Closer to Zero timeline aimed to have proposed lead draft action levels for categories of foods consumed by babies and young children by April 2022. While these standards were indeed proposed for apple juice (as well as chocolate and hard candy), no other lead action levels on baby foods have been proposed.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has led a coalition of several state attorneys general calling on the FDA to speed up the plan’s timeline. James called the delay on lead action levels for baby foods "both a public health concern and a matter of environmental justice," noting how low-income children and children of color are disproportionately impacted by lead.
In its own response, the FDA said it is "actively working" on draft action level guidance for lead in these foods.
"The FDA is committed to moving as quickly as possible," the agency told FOX Television Stations. "The Agency is on track to fulfill the commitments in the FDA’s ‘Closer to Zero’ plan and met our first-year goals. In April, we issued the proposed action levels for lead in juices. In addition, we are actively working on guidance for an action level for arsenic in apple juice and draft action level guidance for lead in foods marketed for infants and young children."
‘No requirement to test the finished product’
In issuing its guidance for standards of lead in juice (10 ppb for apple juice, 20 ppb for other fruit and vegetable juices), the FDA noted that even low lead exposure can harm children’s health and development — specifically the brain and nervous system.
But the agency also said it’s committed to setting standards to the "extent feasible" by the juice industry.
"Though not binding, these action levels are intended to encourage manufacturers to maintain lead levels in juices below the action levels, thus reducing risks associated with dietary lead exposures," the FDA states on its website.
For Brody and other advocates, concern continues to grow for other baby food categories awaiting agency standards on lead and other toxic metals. And again, these standards are not binding but rather recommendations from the FDA for manufacturers.
"There’s no level, there’s no illegality to having an enormous amount of lead in sweet potatoes. That’s not one of the foods that are regulated at the present time," Brody noted.
She added: "There’s no requirement now that you actually test the finished product. There should be."
The 2021 Congressional report found that most baby food manufacturers did not test their finished products at all. Instead, they tested only individual ingredients and used those results to estimate the toxic heavy metal levels in their finished products.
After the 2021 congressional report, the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 was also introduced by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Il.), which would establish the maximum levels allowed of inorganic arsenic, mercury, lead, and cadmium in baby food and increase monitoring and enforcement of those levels.
The bill would require facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold infant and toddler food to have certain controls and plans to ensure that their food complies with the toxic metal limits, including finished product testing, and make results from these tests publicly available.
In addition, the bill would expand the FDA's authority to require a recall of adulterated or misbranded food to include infant and toddler food that exceeds limits on toxic elements, among other changes.
The Baby Food Safety Act was introduced in the House in March 2021 but has stalled.
How to limit heavy metals in baby foods
Some popular baby foods have higher levels of toxic heavy metals than others, like rice-based snacks, juice, and sweet potatoes.
Rice is a leading source of arsenic exposure for young children, the Healthy Babies Bright Futures guidance states. Instead, parents can serve other grains like oats, wheat, and barley to help cut their family’s exposure.
Cooking rice in extra water that is poured off before eating can cut down arsenic levels by as much as 60%, according to FDA studies. Basmati rice grown in California, India and Pakistan has been found to have the lowest levels of arsenic, and white rice has less arsenic than brown rice, Healthy Babies Bright Futures guidance states.
"There are some foods that just have less heavy metals than others, and relying more on those foods is a better option," Brody said, noting how Healthy Babies Bright Futures offers shopping guides on safe products for parents online.
"Shopping organic doesn’t address heavy metals," Brody added.
Infant rice cereal is the No. 1 source of arsenic in infant diets, Healthy Babies Bright Futures says in its guidance. Parents are encouraged to choose other cereals like oatmeal and multi-grain.
Instead of teething biscuits and rice rusks, parents can opt for items like frozen bananas, peeled and chilled cucumbers, a clean, cold wet washcloth, or a spoon, while always monitoring for choking.
"Some grains, some fruits, and vegetables pull up more heavy metals than others. So a banana is a better choice of a teething snack, especially if it’s frozen, than a teething biscuit," Brody said. "I would say a variety matters... mix it up, and be especially careful about the most contaminated foods."
"We also actually need the government to take care of this problem for us," she continued. "Closer to Zero is a very promising program. It needs to live up to its promise and make this one less thing that parents need to worry about."
This story was reported from Cincinnati.
Heavy metals found in 95% of baby food
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
Experts' conclusion is disappointing: “Despite the fact that the FDA is committed to reducing exposure to heavy metals, 148 of 168 infant formulas tested were found to have significantly exceeded levels. 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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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 . The 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 at 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).
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).
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.
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%.
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 often.