Healthy Babies Bright Futures’ recently conducted a study of 288 baby food products, which included more than 7,000 previously published studies. The tests were conducted on popular baby foods that included sweet potatoes, carrots, cereal, bananas. HGGF found no evidence to suggest homemade purees and family brands were any safer or had lower levels of toxic heavy metals, than store-bought baby food.
In addition, WebMD found that roughly 94 percent of store and homemade baby food contain at least one toxic heavy metal. The authors warned against eating puffs, rice cakes, crisped rice cereal, and brown rice cooked without adding more water. They found those items to be laced with arsenic which puts both children and adults at risk.
They found arsenic in 68 percent of store-bought food and in 72 percent of homemade foods. The researchers also found lead in 90 percent of the store-bought food and in 80 percent of family homemade purees they tested.
Sadly, the investigations suggest that virtually all food made for babies is laced with toxins in various amounts.
“Toxic metal exposure can be harmful to the developing brain,” warned the American Academy of Pediatrics. “It has been linked with problems with learning, cognition, and behavior.”
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“Our study includes a new parent’s guide of popular baby foods to serve, limit, and avoid, based on our tests.
- Four popular foods consumed by babies are so heavily contaminated by heavy metals that we recommend avoiding them altogether.
- Fourteen foods have little contamination and can be served freely.
- Twenty-two foods have moderate to relatively high amounts of heavy metals, to be eaten rarely or in rotation with other foods. For some of these foods, preparation matters — peeling and cooking can lower the heavy metal content.”
Toxic heavy metals in a baby’s diet can lead to lifelong intelligence deficits and other health problems. But despite these tragic risks and the recent HBBF findings, baby food makers face inadequate regulatory limits on toxic heavy metals in the food they make for babies.
The FDA has thus far taken little action to protect babies from toxic heavy metals in their food. The agency has a limited multi-year timeline to limit lead, arsenic and other heavy metals in baby food, which causes infants to face significant repercussions. Nearly 10,000 babies in the U.S. begin eating solid food every day. Each day that passes can severely impact developing babies, an estimated 10,000 of whom begin to eat solid food daily, at a crucial stage of their mental and physical development.
HBBF recommends “a two-pronged ‘Kitchen and Country’ approach,” until FDA takes aggressive protective action to protect babies. Meanwhile, says HBBF, parents should choose and prepare foods to reduce baby exposures as best they can.
The group also notes that heavy metals contaminate foods throughout the grocery store. Rice, for example, is often loaded with arsenic, and beans often contain unsafe levels of lead.
“[T]he FDA should establish and enforce protective limits for heavy metals in all foods consumed by babies and young children — not just baby food brands but also fresh and family-style foods babies eat. Heavy metals contamination spans all the food aisles of the grocery store.”
Consumer Reports noted in 2018 that U.S. children eat a lot of packaged baby food, with more than 90 percent of parents with kids 3 and under serving packaged foods at least sometimes. CR’s survey of more than 3,000 parents found annual sales of baby food now top $53 billion. Zion Market Research referenced in the same story expected parents to spend at least $76 billion on baby food by 2021.
Consumer Reports also found cadmium, inorganic arsenic, or lead in about 68 percent of the food it tested, with 15 tested foods posing potential health risks to children eating a single serving or even less per day. Foods with rice or sweet potatoes were especially likely to contain heavy metals at unsafe levels.
In addition, and in conjunction with HBBF’s recent findings, CR also found that foods labeled “organic” contained heavy metals as much as “conventionally grown” foods did.
Advice for Parents
On the up side, Consumer Reports has also offered some potentially useful advice for what parents can do.