Study finds high levels of toxic metals in some baby foods

Popular brands containing arsenic, cadmium and lead

Study finds high levels of toxic metals in some baby foods

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - A recent study found high levels of toxic metals in certain popular baby food brands and some pediatricians are expressing their concerns.

Dr. Anita Henderson, a Hattiesburg Clinic Pediatrician and president of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics explained what the findings mean.

“Metals are found in the earth naturally, so there are some beneficial instances like, iron,” Henderson said. “Cadmium, arsenic, lead – those are a few of the metals that are not beneficial. So it’s normal to have metals in food and water. It’s just those toxic levels that are concerning.”

Back in November, the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy on Oversight and Reform in the House of Representatives requested details from companies after reports claiming high levels. The subcommittee asked for testing policies and results from seven companies.

Four of the seven complied and the committee did find high levels of arsenic, cadmium and lead. Those three companies and brands are:

  • 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.
  • Gerber.

The other three companies refused to produce the documents and did not cooperate with the investigation. In the staff report, the subcommittee writes that they are “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.”

Those three companies are:

  • 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).

Henderson explained the dangers associated with the findings.

“Elevated levels of some of these heavy metals has been found to inhibit brain growth,” Henderson said. “It may cause loss of IQ points, neurodevelopmental outcomes that are detrimental.”

Henderson said the FDA does not have a set cap on how much of certain toxic metals can appear in foods. As the president of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, she hopes that the findings from this investigation might change the regulations.

“It’s important to test not only the ingredients that go into the food to start with but also the end product,” Henderson said. “You know, the foods may have certain amounts of metals, but it’s the end product that you end up feeding the baby – that needs to be tested. So we’re hopeful to set limits across the board, whether it be water, bottled water or baby food, so we know what those limits are and what those caps are.”

Meanwhile, Henderson advised parents to rotate through a variety of food groups and nutrients for their kids to make sure they are not overexposed to any toxic ingredients.

For example, she suggested that parents limit rice cereal to three to five times per week as rice is known to be higher in arsenic than other cereals. Alternating between rice, oatmeal, barley and giving a variety of grains is the safer option.

“It’s also important to serve children a variety of foods, especially more natural colors,” Henderson said. “Eating a variety of healthy foods that are rich in essential nutrients can lower the exposure to toxic metals and other contaminants found in some foods.”

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