Baby food: A brand-new draft of baby food guidance was presented by the US Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday.
The guidelines state that 20 parts per billion is the maximum amount of lead that should be present in different meals for infants and toddlers.
Dr. Robert Califf, the FDA Commissioner, released a statement in which he claims:
“For babies and young children who eat the food covered in today’s draft guidance, the FDA estimates that these action levels could result as a 24-27% reduction in exposure to lead from these foods.”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 most recent plan includes packaged baby food in packets, jars, pouches, and tubs for infants and young children under the age of two.
Any action by the FDA is appreciated, according to Jane Houlihan, national director of science and health at Healthy Babies, Bright Futures.
However, she argues that the projected lead levels are still excessively high.
“Nearly all baby foods on the market already comply with what they have proposed,” said Houlihan.
In a research she published in 2019, she reported that prepared baby food included high levels of lead and other heavy metals (95%).
The study’s conclusions prompted a congressional inquiry in 2021, which resulted in the revelation that the infant food manufacturers were aware they were endorsing products with high levels of harmful 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.”
Jane Houlihan’s sentiments were shared by Brian Ronhom, director of food policy at Consumer Reports, expressing his concerns.
Consumer Reports examined more than 50 baby foods five years ago and found “concerning” levels of heavy metals.
They said that if children even ate one serving of the 15 infant foods each day, they would be in danger.
Ronholm made the following statement:
“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.”
Regarding the issue of young infants being exposed to lethal heavy metals, the American Academy of Pediatrics released the following statement:
“It’s been linked with problems with learning, cognition, and behavior.”
What parents can do
Parents may be interested in learning ways to reduce their exposure given the current attention on the presence of toxic metals in baby food.
Experts warn that retail produce could have a lot of contaminants despite alternatives like homemade or organic baby food.
A 2022 Healthy Babies, Bright Futures research found lead in 80% of the commercial and homemade purees analyzed.
Arsenic was present in 72% of family meals prepared at home.
To minimize exposure, experts suggested alternating daily meals.
The least contaminated things are also available as listed on their chart.
Avoiding heavy metals in baby food
According to a Healthy Babies, Bright Futures study, the following metals were found in 94% of homemade and store-bought baby food:
According to the study, fresh bananas were the least contaminated with heavy metals with 1.8 parts per billion.
Grits were added to the following prepared baby foods after them with these:
- Butternut squash
These additional goods also have minimal contamination:
- Green beans
- Soft/pureed home-cooked meats
The level of contamination was greatest in infant food made with rice.
Brown rice, crisped rice cereals, rice cakes, and rice puffs all have high levels of inorganic arsenic, the deadliest kind of arsenic.
Following rice-based meals, the analysis discovered that high levels of heavy metals were present in raisins, non-rice teething crackers, granola bars with raisins, and oat ring cereals.
Other products that have at least one toxic metal traceable in them include:
- Arrowroot teething crackers
- Dried fruit
- Grape juice
- Sunflower seed butter
The level of heavy metals in baby food may not be significantly affected by buying organic food, according to Dr. Leonardo Trasande, director of environmental pediatrics at NYU Langone Health.
Toxins like pesticides and herbicides could be avoided, 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
Prior to the FDA verdict, only heavy metals were restricted in infant rice cereal.
Due to its association with neurotoxic effects on development and adverse pregnancy outcomes, the FDA imposed a limit of 100 parts per billion for arsenic two years ago.
According to Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, there is clearly potential for improvement.
“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.”
Since they already do this, according to Jane Houlihan, businesses ought to require that suppliers and producers evaluate the food they produce and the land they use before deciding which ones to buy from.
“Growers can use soil additives, different growing methods, and crop varieties known to reduce lead in their products,” said Houlihan.