Four leading baby food manufacturers knowingly sold baby food that contained high levels of toxic metals. This information was found on internal company documents released in a congressional investigation.
According to Democratic Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, chair of the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy: “Dangerous levels of toxic metals like arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury exist in baby food at levels that exceed what experts and governing bodies say is permissible.” In some instances, the foods contained hundreds of parts per billion of dangerous metals, when they should not contain more than a single-digit per billion.
Metals like arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury are omg the World Health Organization’s top chemicals of concern for infants and children. The metals have been linked to cancer, chronic disease, and neurotoxic effects.
For infants, devastating damage can be done to the developing brain. According to Jane Houlihan, the national director of science and health for Healthy Babies Bright Futures, “Their brain is forming quite rapidly, and so when they’re exposed to metals that can interrupt those natural processes, the impacts range from behavioral problems to aggression to IQ loss and all kinds of cognitive and behavioral deficits that can persist throughout life. Pound for pound, babies get the highest dose of these heavy metals compared to other parts of the population. So the consequences are serious.”
The companies that conducted the internal testing were Gerber, Beech-Nut, Nurture, Inc., and Hain Celestial Group, Inc. CNN reached out to the companies for statements prior to the publication of the report. At the time, none of the companies had seen the report. All responded with statements either disagreeing with the findings or discussing how their practices are different.
Three additional baby food companies did not fully cooperate with the subcommittee’s investigation. Those companies include Sprout Organic Foods, Walmart, and Campbell Soup Company. The report noted, “The Subcommittee is greatly concerned that their lack of cooperation might be obscuring the presence of even high levels of toxic metals in their baby food products than their competitors’ products.”
The FDA has yet to take any new actions to regulate heavy metals in baby food. In a response to CNN, the FDA said, “Going forward, good manufacturing processes, such as sourcing rice and other ingredients with lower inorganic arsenic levels, will continue to help manufacturers products infant rice cereal with inorganic arsenic levels below the action level.”