In 2019, four leading manufacturers of baby food – Gerber, Beech Nut, Happy Baby, and Earth’s Best Organic – knowingly sold baby food containing high levels of toxic metals including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. These chemicals are part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) top 10 chemicals for concern in babies and children because of their link to chronic diseases, cancer, and neurotoxic effects in a developing baby’s brain. Surprisingly, the US Food and Drug Administration (USDA) does not currently limit heavy metals found in infant food, although it has set limits for arsenic in both rice cereal and bottled water.
Internal testing conducted by these companies showed that certain products contained up to 91 times the arsenic level, up to 177 times the lead level, up to 69 times the cadmium level, and up to 5 times the mercury level allowed in bottled water and STILL sold these products to unknowing consumers. During the Trump administration, the FDA did not take any action in response to these findings to ensure that baby foods containing toxic metals are identified with a warning label for parents. The FDA also does not require manufacturers to test their ingredients. This policy needs to change immediately.
In order for manufacturers to be more transparent with consumers, the FDA needs to mandate maximum levels of toxic metals that can be applied across the table to all foods. Manufacturers should also be required to test all baby food products and not just select ingredients. Furthermore, parents should take advantage of making baby food at home using organic food in a food processor or immersion blender, both of which are relatively inexpensive when compared with the cost of buying bottles of pureed baby food from the store.
Written by: Kelly Stewart