Image source: Green Matters
Baby food: The US Food and Drug Administration published a new draft advice on infant food on Tuesday.
The guidelines addressed the lead content of various infant and toddler meals, stating that it should be kept to a maximum of 20 parts per billion.
The FDA Commissioner, Dr. Robert Califf, issued a statement in which he says:
“For babies and young children who eat the food covered in today’s draft guidance, the FDA estimates that these action levels could result as a 24-27% reduction in exposure to lead from these foods.”
The latest proposal includes manufactured baby food for infants and kids under the age of two that comes in cartons, jars, pouches, and tubs.
According to Jane Houlihan, national director of science and health for Healthy Babies, Bright Futures, any action by the FDA is appreciated.
She asserted that the proposed lead levels are too high.
“Nearly all baby foods on the market already comply with what they have proposed,” said Houlihan.
She published a report in 2019 that found excessive levels of lead and other heavy metals (95%) in processed baby food.
The information in the report prompted a congressional inquiry in 2021, which revealed that the producers of baby food were aware they were selling goods with excessive quantities of hazardous metals.
“The FDA hasn’t done enough with these proposed lead limits to protect babies from young children from lead’s harmful effects,” said Houlihan.
“There is no known safe level of lead exposure, and children are particularly vulnerable.”
Brian Ronhom, the head of food policy for Consumer Reports, expressed concern along with Jane Houlihan.
Consumer Reports examined more than 50 infant meals five years ago and found “concerning” amounts of heavy metals.
They stated that children who consumed one serving or fewer each day of 15 of the baby foods might be at danger.
Ronholm issued a statement in which he says:
“The FDA should be encouraging the industry to work harder to reduce hazardous lead and other heavy metals in baby food, given how vulnerable young children are to toxic exposure.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics addressed the issue of infants and children being exposed to harmful heavy metals, stating:
“It’s been linked with problems with learning, cognition, and behavior.”
What parents can do
Given the attention brought to the presence of hazardous metals in infant food, parents may be wondering how they may limit their exposure.
Although there are options for organic or homemade baby food, experts claim that vegetables found in supermarkets also have a lot of contaminants.
According to a 2022 Healthy Babies, Bright Futures study, lead was discovered in 80% of store-bought or home-made purees.
Meanwhile, 72% of family meals cooked at home contained arsenic.
To reduce exposure, experts advised diversifying the foods consumed every day.
Additionally, they have access to the foods on their chart that have the least contamination.
Avoiding heavy metals in baby food
In 94% of homemade and store-bought baby food, the following metals were discovered, according to a Healthy Babies, Bright Futures investigation:
1.8 parts per billion of heavy metals were found in fresh bananas, according to the research, making them the least contaminated food.
Grits and the following prepared baby foods were placed after them:
- Butternut squash
Other foods with minor contamination levels include:
- Green beans
- Soft/pureed home-cooked meats
Meanwhile, rice-based baby meals had the greatest contamination levels.
Inorganic arsenic, the more deadly form of arsenic, was abundant in brown rice, crisped rice cereals, rice cakes, and rice puffs.
After rice-based food, the investigation found that raisins, non-rice teething crackers, granola bars with raisins, and oat ring cereals had significant amounts of heavy metals.
Other substances with high concentrations of at least one hazardous metal consist of:
- Arrowroot teething crackers
- Dried fruit
- Grape juice
- Sunflower seed butter
Choosing organic food might not lessen the amount of heavy metals in baby food, according to Dr. Leonardo Trasande, the director of environmental pediatrics at NYU Langone Health.
Toxins like pesticides and herbicides could be avoided as a result, however.
“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 more problematic,” said Trasande.
More action demanded
They had only previously established limitations for heavy metals in newborn rice cereal prior to the FDA decision.
The agency established a limit of 100 parts per billion for arsenic two years ago because it was linked to neurotoxic effects on development and poor pregnancy outcomes.
There is still room for improvement, according to Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group.
“We can change where we farm and how we farm to reduce toxic metals absorbed by plants,” said Faber.
“We also urge baby food manufacturers to conduct continuous testing of heavy metals in all their products and make all testing results publicly available.”
According to Jane Houlihan, companies might demand that suppliers and growers analyze the food they produce and the soil they use, then choose to purchase from those that use the fewest amounts of heavy metals.
“Growers can use soil additives, different growing methods, and crop varieties known to reduce lead in their products,” said Houlihan.