Advocates Withdraw from Baby-Food Panel

Nov. 10, 2021
Two advocacy groups have withdrawn from a panel on baby food safety, complaining that the industry representatives on the panel were not cooperating.

Two advocacy groups have withdrawn from a panel on baby food safety, complaining that the industry representatives on the panel were not cooperating.

The Baby Food Council, formed in 2019, comprised the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Healthy Baby Bright Futures, and four baby food processors. The mission was to set voluntary standards for four heavy metals (arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium) in baby food.

The presence of these heavy metals has engendered criticism, congressional hearings and a petition by the attorneys general of 23 states. Because arsenic is the only heavy metal with federally imposed limits, the Baby Food Council intended to set voluntary industry standards for the others (and possibly a lower one for arsenic).

But the EDF claims that the four baby food companies on the panel – Hain Celestial, Gerber, Beech-Nut and Happy Family Organics – didn’t cooperate with the panel’s queries. Specifically, they allegedly dragged their feet on furnishing information about the levels of heavy metals already present in their products, with Hain saying outright that it would not provide that data.

“It’s really hard to get continuous improvement if you don’t have a baseline and if you don’t know where you are at,” an EDF official told E&E News.

Gerber and Beech-Nut both told E&E News that they were committed to safety in their products, and that in any case, since the FDA has declared an intention to establish formal standards for heavy metals in baby food, they are placing less emphasis on voluntary standards.

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