Heavy Metals Getting into our Baby Food - Moms Across America

Heavy Metals In Baby Food and What We Can Do About It

Update: Parent's Choice from Walmart Recalled for High Levels of Arsenic in Rice Baby Food

A new article by Lisa Gill of Consumer Reports states, "The Food and Drug Administration said Friday that baby food manufacturer Maple Island had issued a voluntary, nationwide recall of three lots of its 8-ounce Parent's Choice rice baby cereal after a sample tested above the FDA's guidance for inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen. The products were tested as part of a routine sampling program by the FDA. No illnesses have been reported."

Immediate illness is not the only concern; however, long-term brain damage is caused by arsenic in animals and kidney function. Children are especially vulnerable due to their developing bodies.

This is also the second recall by a manufacturer for elevated inorganic arsenic levels in rice cereal for babies in less than six months. Beech-Nut issued a recall in June 2021 and announced it was permanently withdrawing from the infant rice cereal market after routine testing showed elevated levels of arsenic. 

"We've reached a critical point," says Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports. "The industry appears to be unable to control the issue, and the FDA's go-slow regulatory approach is not serving the public interest."

"Baby food manufacturers should consider pulling infant rice cereal from the market until they can implement effective mitigation measures to address inorganic arsenic," he says. "Parents and caregivers deserve better."

Heavy metals in baby food have been a documented problem for several years. Tests in 2018 of 50 nationally distributed baby and toddler foods by Consumer Reports found that two-thirds had worrisome levels of at least one type of heavy metal.

Product recalled: Three lots of 8-ounce packages of Parent's Choice rice baby cereal sold at Walmart after April 5, 2021. The following product information can be found on the bottom left corner of the back of the package:

• Lot 21083, with UPC Code #00681131082907 and a "best if used by" date of June 24, 2022

• Lot 21084, with UPC Code #00681131082907 and a "best if used by" date of June 25, 2022

• Lot 21242, with UPC Code #00681131082907 and a "best if used by" date of November 30, 2022

We recommend not buying ANY rice products for baby food and making your baby food from organic ingredients. Avoid rice, root vegetables, spices, which are high in heavy metals. 

We ask everyone to please get in touch with their Senators and Representatives by clicking here. A pre-written email will ask them to pass regulations to protect our babies from heavy metals urgently. If you like, you can Tweet and be automatically connected with your elected official's office as well.

Click here to sign the letter, Tweet, and speak to your elected officials to ask them to vote YES to pass the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 today.

More details on the Consumer Reports original report are below from the article originally published March 29, 2019:

Congress Releases New Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 After Report on High Levels of Heavy Metal Contamination in Baby Food

Summary:

  • The New Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 has been presented and, if passed, will set heavy metal levels in baby food for the first time.
  • A recent Congressional report shows in-house testing from four baby food companies to have heavy metal contamination of ingredients up to 177 times higher than FDA standards.
  • These companies knew the levels far exceeded FDA allowable levels for heavy metals in water and still approved the products for sale to the public.
  • Three baby food companies did not comply and sent the Congressional Committee the heavy metal testing data as requested.
  • The highest tested ingredients for heavy metal contamination were organic and nonorganic rice products, spices, and additives.
  • The entry method of heavy metal contamination is unknown. Still, scientists suspect that heavy metals are pollutants of pesticides in fertilizer, irrigation water, or metal machinery used to grind and process food.
  • Moms Across America calls for parents to make their baby food and the FDA to require heavy metal (and pesticide) testing of all final products.

A new report released on February 4, 2021, by the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Committee on Oversight and Reform U.S. House of Representatives reveals shocking levels of heavy metals in baby food ingredients. This report was sparked by testing initiated by Healthy Babies Bright Future in August of 2020. As stated in the new report, one of the baby food companies had a secret meeting with Trump’s administration and revealed the high levels of heavy metal contamination. The Trump administration took no further action.

Four out of seven of the baby food companies responded to the Oversight Committee’s requests for further testing conducted by the company itself. Four companies, Nurture (HappyBABY), Beech-Nut, Hain (Earth’s Best Organics), and Gerber, responded. Walmart (People’s Choice), Campbell (Plum Organics), and Sprout Organic Foods refused to comply.

Non-responding companies only submitted test results on the ingredients, not the baby food final product. One company merely reported an estimate of what they surmised the final product would contain. All of the companies had their standards for what levels of heavy metals would be acceptable. All of the companies that responded showed levels above FDA allowances for heavy metal consumption in water. Many had test results showing heavy metal levels that exceeded their standards. And yet, they approved all of the products for sale anyway.

The levels of heavy metals found in the ingredients were highly alarming. For instance, Beechnut baby food reported 913 ppb of arsenic in Amylase (an enzyme usually derived from yeast, fungi, or bacteria). This amount is 91X higher than the FDA’s allowable love of 10 ppb of arsenic in water.

Urine levels greater than 35 to 50 μg/L are consistent with acute arsenic toxicity. Some symptoms of arsenic poisoning are:

  • red or swollen skin
  • skin changes, such as new warts or lesions
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea

These are symptoms that parents often see in their children but may assume are normal or attributed to other causes. 

Beechnut baby foods also reported 886.9 ppb of lead and 334.5 ppb of Cadmium in their cinnamon ingredient. The FDA only allows five ppb of both of these heavy metals in water. These levels are 177 and 69 times higher than the FDA’s standards, respectively.

Only one of the companies reported testing for Mercury at all, and that company, HappyBABY, reported 10ppb, which is a 500% increase than the EPA’s mercury limit in water, 2ppb. Healthy Babies Bright Future is requesting a mercury level of zero.

Symptoms of lead, cadmium, and mercury poisoning include:

Lead is associated with a range of bad health outcomes, including behavioral problems, decreased cognitive performance, delayed puberty, and reduced postnatal growth. According to the FDA, lead is hazardous to “infants” and “young children.” 

According to the report, cadmium exposure to boys resulted in 7 fewer IQ points than those exhibiting less cadmium exposure.

Mercury poisoning in children results in:

  • impaired motor skills
  • problems thinking or problem-solving
  • difficulties learning to speak or understanding language
  • issues with hand-eye coordination
  • being physically unaware of their surroundings

The FDA has cautioned that infants and children are at the most significant risk of harm from toxic heavy metal exposure.

So why hasn’t the FDA set safety standards for limits of heavy metals, specifically in baby food? Moms Across America supports the healthy Baby Bright Future, Consumer Reports, and Congressional Oversight Committee endeavors to have the FDA do just this.

If reasonable safety standards are set to low levels or zero, one must wonder, with such a disparity between zero and 913 ppb, how will the manufacturers comply? They cannot simply switch to organic. Some organic ingredients in the report had higher levels of heavy metals than conventional ones, and most were above FDA standards. This is shocking to consumers who expect organic food, purchased at a premium price, safer and have lower levels of heavy metals and toxins.

How are these heavy metals getting into baby food?

According to the report, the ingredients with the highest levels of heavy metals were rice flour, organic and nonorganic cinnamon, organic cumin, organic coriander, oregano amylase, vitamin mixes, BAN 800, Sebamyl 100, and enzymes, all above 200 ppb or higher of arsenic, lead, and cadmium. 

Therefore the primary contamination of baby food is being introduced through processed additives and spices. This information shows us that baby food can be made more safely without these ingredients. The primary food source, such as pears, potatoes, apricots, and prunes, had, for instance, less than 30 ppb (albeit still unacceptable) of lead. Steps must be taken immediately to eliminate all of the ingredients with high levels of heavy metals. Consequences must be rendered to the companies for not taking these steps before releasing contaminated food to the public. Besides, all baby food companies must comply with government requests for safety data. No matter how big of a company, no one should be immune from being responsible for their product safety!

So after determining the pathway of contamination, one cannot help but wonder...

WHY are these spices, rice products, and vitamin mixes or additives contaminated with heavy metals?

Soil experts such as Dr. Don Huber, a 50-year plant pathologist and Professor Emeritus of Perdue University, have stated that manure used as fertilizer in organic farming could be the reason for the higher levels of heavy metals. Conventional farmers can use straight nitrogen and potassium, and organic cannot. However, Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) manure can be used in organic, and excrement has been found to be a source of heavy metals. The manure contains heavy metals because the GMO animal feed they eat is grown and sprayed with pesticides and contains heavy metal residues. Pesticides such as glyphosate-based Roundup and Ranger Pro have been found to contain heavy metals. Hazardous waste from industries such as steel mills, tanners, film, and coal-fired plants is allowed into fertilizers.  Heavy metals have been shown to be taken up into plants.

The US Geological Survey reports that mining pollution draining into waterways is also a significant source of heavy metal contamination.

Senior Scientist of Consumer Reports, Michael Hansen, expressed concern over the lack of regulation in many countries that may have processing equipment for spices such as conveyor belts, metal bowls, or grinding equipment that contain heavy metals.

The reason for the contamination must be resolved. If forced to clean up their ingredient list, food manufacturers may have a challenging time producing baby food if cleaner sources cannot be found. Regardless of why, at Moms Across America, we are appalled that private companies, trusted by parents across the country, have continued to sell baby food that they knew was contaminated at extraordinarily high levels by heavy metals. We are also disgusted with Walmart, Sprout Organic Foods, and refuse to ignore Campbell for ignoring our government’s request and refusing to be transparent about the levels of heavy metals in their baby food.

Producing food that is given to a baby at their most vulnerable times is a huge responsibility. As Phillipe Grandjean, MD, Harvard adjunct professor,  states in the acclaimed book “Only One Chance,” developing blood-brain barriers are more susceptible to permeability by toxins. Also, because their liver is not fully developed, they absorb (and less efficient at eliminating) 40-70% more lead than adults. Exposure to heavy metals has statistically significant associations with lower IQ scores in children. And the effects are not able to be remediated in humans. The author points out that symptoms of heavy metal poisoning only worsen over time. Decreased mental abilities lead to incapacitated adults that need increasing amounts of care and medical attention. These children who are being inadvertently poisoned by heavy metals from well-intentioned parents will likely experience learning, behavioral or health effects for the rest of their lives. The contribution they make to society may likely be diminished due to a lower IQ. In short, these baby food companies, who are not taking responsibility for their products’ safety, are harming America’s future.

The heavy metal contamination of baby food (and all food) is unacceptable and must stop. The regulation of spices (likely grown in other countries) needs to be addressed. In the USA, crops grown in contaminated soil must be identified. It is possible to chelate the heavy metals out of the soil without severely disturbing the soil by growing hemp and composting said hemp. This process is called Phytoremediation.  Soil washing with chelating (removal) agents is also an option, but we prefer hemp. Imagine if the USDA funded farmers to grow hemp instead of millions of acres of GMO chemically farmed soy and corn? Imagine if the FDA lowered the allowances of heavy metals in our food to safe levels? Imagine if baby food manufacturers and all food manufacturers did not allow heavy metal contaminated ingredients in their food?

We, the consumers, implore baby food manufacturers and food manufacturers of all kinds to test your products for heavy metal contamination. Your diligence could mean the difference between our children having ten more IQ points that lead to a discovery or invention that changes the world. The integrity you have in producing 3-ounce servings of baby food or snacks could mean us getting our country’s future back.

Thank you.


We ask everyone to please contact their Senators and Representatives by clicking here. A pre-written email will ask them to urgently pass regulations to protect our babies from heavy metals. If you like, you can Tweet and  be automatically connected with your elected official's office as well.

Click here to sign the letter, Tweet, and speak to your elected officials to ask them to vote YES to pass the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 today.

You may want to contact award-winning law firm Baum Hedlund Arestei and Goldman if you have a child with autism or severe ADHD and your child ate baby food from these brands. See article here.

Until the FDA and these food companies decide to act, and until clean baby food brands can be verified, we strongly urge all parents to make their baby food. As seen from the report, parents can easily avoid rice flour, Amylase, enzymes, BAN 800, Symbal 100, cinnamon, and spices. Breastfeeding for as long as possible and knowing your local farmer, and that they farm organically, with organically fed animals that provide the fertilizer, is also a meaningful way to avoid heavy metals.

Here are a few simple steps for making your baby food:

  1. Wash, peel, and boil the vegetable or fruit until soft.
  2. Drain and either mash by hand or use a food processor or blender until a smooth paste.
  3. Add spring water or reverse osmosis filtered (fluoride-free) water if food seems too clumpy, and mix.
  4. Serve or pour into ice cube trays, cover, and freeze for later use.
  5. To use, simply remove from the ice cube trays, put them into a glass container a few hours before use, and allow them to defrost. Room temperature baby food can be used. Or warm slightly by putting the glass container in boiling water. 

Don’ts

  1. Do not microwave. Microwaving kills essential nutrients.
  2. Do not use any rice products, even organic.
  3. Avoid root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and yams, as they can absorb heavy metals from the soil. 
  4. Do not add any spices or food coloring.

Do know that you can make your own baby food! It’s not as hard as it sounds. You can also buy a portable baby food grinder and bring it with you to organic restaurants and grind up the food you eat. It works!

We wish to thank Jared Willams for his volunteer support in researching for this article. Jared is a recent graduate of Arizona University and is available for hire as a soil scientist. Please contact him at [email protected]


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  • Peter Kraus
    commented 2021-03-29 11:48:27 -0400
    Thank you for this informative article, and the discussion of possible causes of baby food contamination. One additional idea for a possible cause has been put forward by the scientist David Lewis, Ph.D., in his book “Science for Sale”. There he explains that because sewage sludge was being dumped in the ocean off the coast of New Jersey, and because of the public outcry, the government changed its rules so as to disallow off coast dumping, and to simultaneously allow sewage sludge to be repurposed for use on farm fields as “fertilizer” (also know as “biosolids”). Unfortunately, it is high in heavy metal contaminants.

    Its good to hear that Congress may take action on this. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope also that they find a cause!
  • Zen Honeycutt
    published this page in Blog 2021-03-29 10:18:07 -0400

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