Lawmakers Hit Baby Food Makers Again

Sept. 30, 2021
A U.S. House subcommittee has put out, for the second time, a harsh report about the levels of heavy metals in baby food made by major manufacturers.

A U.S. House subcommittee has put out, for the second time, a harsh report about the levels of heavy metals in baby food made by major manufacturers.

The House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy called out processors including Gerber, Beech-Nut Nutrition and Hain Celestial Group for allowing high levels of lead, cadmium, mercury and/or arsenic in their products. The report also criticized the FDA for failing to set limits for these substances. It was the second report issued on this subject by the subcommittee this year.

The report slammed companies for practices including allegedly failing to remove such products from shelves in a timely manner, or at all, and for testing ingredients but not the final product. The latter practice can result in the product reaching unacceptable levels of heavy metals when the ingredients are blended.

The FDA also came in for criticism about the regulatory situation. There are no regulatory limits on heavy metals in baby food except for arsenic, which the FDA instituted in 2016. Even that was criticized because it was set at 100 parts per billion, while the standard for drinking water was 10 ppb. The agency was allegedly focused on carcinogenic threats instead of dangers to babies’ developing brains.

Heavy metals, especially arsenic, have been a chronic target of criticism by consumer advocates and others for years. A 2019 report by a consumer group stated that 95% of the baby food it tested had high levels of heavy metals.

Part of the problem is that arsenic occurs naturally in air, water and soil, and can be absorbed by plants, especially rice, which mostly grows underwater. Beech-Nut announced that it was discontinuing cereals made with rice flour for that reason.

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