(CBSDFW.COM) – A recent congressional report reveals that ingredients in many baby foods contain dangerously high levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and cadmium. Released by a House of Representatives subcommittee led by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi on Feb. 4, the report indicates levels that exceed the legal limits established by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization have declared toxic heavy metals dangerous to human health, particularly to babies and children, who are most vulnerable to their neurotoxic effects. Even low levels of exposure can cause serious and often irreversible damage to brain development.
According to the report, these companies make up some of the largest baby food manufacturers in the United States:
- Nurture, Inc. (Nurture), which sells Happy Family Organics, including baby food products under the brand name HappyBABY
- Beech-Nut Nutrition Company (Beech-Nut)
- Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (Hain), which sells baby food products under the brand name Earth’s Best Organic
- Campbell Soup Company (Campbell), which sells baby food products under the brand name Plum Organics
- Walmart Inc. (Walmart), which sells baby food products through its private brand Parent’s Choice
- Sprout Foods, Inc. (Sprout Organic Foods)
Out of the seven companies reviewed by the committee, four shared internal documents and test results while three (Campbell, Walmart, and Sprout Organic Foods) refused to hand over any information. Concerning levels of heavy metals were found in products from all four of the companies reviewed.
“The Subcommittee is greatly concerned that their lack of cooperation might be obscuring the presence of even higher levels of toxic heavy metals in their baby food products than their competitors’ products,” the report said.
Internal company standards permit dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals, and documents revealed that the manufacturers have often sold foods that exceeded those level, according to the report.
Nurture (HappyBABY) sold all products tested, regardless of how much toxic heavy metal the baby food contained.
Beech-Nut set the highest internal arsenic and cadmium standards of any responding manufacturer.
Hain (Earth’s Best Organic) justified deviations above its ingredient testing 5 standards based on “theoretical calculations,” even after Hain admitted to FDA that its testing underestimated final product toxic heavy metal levels.
The subcommittee had “grave concerns about baby food products manufactured by Walmart (Parent’s Choice), Sprout Organic Foods, and Campbell (Plum Organics).” The report said “their lack of cooperation might obscure the presence of even higher levels of toxic heavy metals in their baby food products, compared to their competitors’ products.”
The report also alleges that “The Trump administration ignored a secret industry presentation to federal regulators revealing increased risks of toxic heavy metals in baby foods.” The presentation made clear that ingredient testing is inadequate, and that only final product testing can measure the true danger posed by baby foods. But, “The Trump FDA took no new action in response. To this day, baby foods containing toxic heavy metals bear no label or warning to parents. Manufacturers are free to test only ingredients, or, for the vast majority of baby foods, to conduct no testing at all,” the report said.
The report recommended a series of reforms to the industry in order to regain the public’s trust.
The Subcommittee made the following recommendations:
• Mandatory testing—Baby food manufacturers should be required by FDA to test their finished products for toxic heavy metals, not just their ingredients;
• Labeling—Manufacturers should by required by FDA to report levels of toxic heavy metals on food labels;
• Voluntary phase-out of toxic ingredients—Manufacturers should voluntarily find substitutes for ingredients that are high in toxic heavy metals, or phase out products that have high amounts of ingredients that frequently test high in toxic heavy metals, such as rice;
• FDA standards—FDA should set maximum levels of toxic heavy metals permitted in baby foods. One level for each metal should apply across all baby foods. And the level should be set to protect babies against the neurological effects of toxic heavy metals; and
• Parental vigilance—Parents should avoid baby foods that contain ingredients testing high in toxic heavy metals, such as rice products.
Parents who are concerned should switch to homemade baby foods, using unprocessed fruits and vegetables. That way, they know exactly what ingredients are going into their baby’s food. Homemade baby food is generally more nutritious and tastier than commercially processed food too. And, when cooked in bulk, is cheaper than commercial options.