Heavy metals in baby food: Industry fires back at congressional report’s “tone bias and inaccuracies”

Nutrition Insight:

The US baby food industry has hit back at a report from The Committee on Oversight and Reform that says infant foods are tainted with dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals.  The subcommittee, the main investigative committee in the US House of Representatives, argues that manufacturers knowingly sell baby food containing dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium to unsuspecting parents.

This tainting may endanger infant neurological development and long-term brain function. 

“[The sale of tainted food occurs] in spite of internal company test results showing high levels of toxic heavy metal, and without any warning labels whatsoever,” says Raja Krishnamoorthi, chairman of the subcommittee on economic and consumer policy.

The report is based on internal documents and test results from:

  • Nurture, which sells Happy Family Organics, including baby food products under the brand name HappyBaby.
  • Beech-Nut Nutrition Company.
  • Hain Celestial Group, which sells baby food products under the brand name Earth’s Best Organic.
  • Gerber, which is owned by Nestlé.

The committee also requested internal documents from Walmart, Campbell and Sprout Organic Foods, but says that the companies “refused to cooperate.”

The committee also requested internal documents from Walmart, Campbell and Sprout Organic Foods, but says that the companies “refused to cooperate.”

Speaking to NutritionInsight, many of these companies assert that the report is inaccurate and mischaracterizes the industry. 

A host of recommendations
The subcommittee’s investigation, which commenced in December 2019, found that arsenic, lead and cadmium were present in baby foods made by all responding companies. Additionally, mercury was found in HappyBaby, which was the only food made by a responding company tested for the metal.

Based on the findings, the subcommittee has made five recommendations:

  • Mandatory testing: Baby food manufacturers should be required by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to test their finished products for toxic heavy metals, not just their ingredients.
  • Labeling: The FDA should require manufacturers 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. The level should be set to protect babies against the neurological effects of toxic heavy metals.
  • Parental vigilance: Parents should avoid baby foods that contain ingredients testing high in toxic heavy metals, such as rice products. Instituting recommendations one through four will give parents the information they need to make informed decisions to protect their babies.

Read more at Nutrition Insight

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