Food safety researchers have published new data regarding heavy metals they allegedly found in popular baby foods. A team at Consumer Reports analyzed 50 nationally distributed foods marketed for babies and toddlers in search of cadmium, lead, mercury, and inorganic arsenic.
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Products tested included cereals, packaged fruits and vegetables, packaged entrees, and packaged snacks such a cookies, crackers, crunches, puffs, snack bars, wafers, and biscuits. They were made by Beech-Nut, Gerber, Baby Mum-Mum, Earth's Best, Ella's Kitchen, Happy Baby, Parent's Choice, Plum Organics, and Sprout. Every single one showed measurable levels of either cadmium, inorganic arsenic, or lead. You can see a full list of the foods tested by following this link.
Furthermore, 68 percent had "worrisome" levels of at least one heavy metal, and 15 of the products could pose potential health risks to children eating one serving or less per day on a regular basis. Apparently it doesn't matter if you're buying organic or not, either. According to the research, organic foods were "as likely to contain heavy metals as conventional foods."
Exposure to heavy metals at a young age could cause several issues, including lower IQ, behavioral problems, autism, and ADHD. But James Dickerson, Ph.D, Consumer Reports' chief scientific officer, says parents shouldn't panic - eating these foods won't guarantee their children will develop complications, it just increases their risk. The researchers do offer some recommendations for parents, including feeding children a broad array of foods and limiting foods that produced poor results in Consumer Reports' tests, like packaged snacks, rice, and fruit juice.
The Daily Meal has reached out to each baby food brand for comment.
In a statement to The Daily Meal, a spokesperson for Baby Mum-Mums said: "A recent third-party report questioned the content of arsenic and other heavy metals in several baby food products on the market. At Baby Mum-Mum, we are parents ourselves so we share your concerns about quality and safety. Our company has been making rice crackers for over 35 years and one of our hallmarks is that we always source the highest quality rice and cleanest ingredients we can find. Some contaminants, such as arsenic, are naturally present in the air, water, and soil, and cannot be removed from food. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets strict levels as to what is safe, while also understanding that many of these contaminants exist naturally and cannot be removed. Baby Mum-Mums meets, and exceeds, all FDA guidelines. As standard procedure, we regularly test our products to ensure compliance with all FDA safety regulations, including those pertaining to arsenic, lead and other heavy metals, and constantly look for ways to minimize these occurring contaminants."
A spokesperson for Ella' Kitchen said: "At Ella's Kitchen, we take pride in sourcing only the finest ingredients available, and we fully appreciate the concern of parents surrounding the quality and safety of their little ones' food. Our number one priority has always been the safety of our food, and please be assured that all of our ingredients are tested to verify they are below regulatory limits for heavy metals prior to use. We continue to partner with industry experts and regulators in researching and defining standards related to heavy metals."
A spokesperson for Earth's Best said: "At Earth's Best, there is nothing more important to us than the safety of your children. Our products are manufactured to meet our rigid specifications for quality and food safety. Arsenic is present in soil and drinking water worldwide. Recent reports have shown that 10% of apple juice tested was slightly above levels allowed in drinking water. We test the organic apple juice concentrate used to make our apple juice for arsenic and our test results show below levels of detection for arsenic. Food safety is our greatest priority at Hain Celestial Group, and recent attention to arsenic in food and beverage products is of utmost concern to us. Arsenic is naturally present in the environment including air, water, and soil, and therefore trace amounts may be detected in foods and beverages. Our organic ingredients are produced without the use of arsenical-containing pesticides and fertilizers to minimize the presence of arsenic as well as other potential soil contaminants. Although rice and rice containing products are safe for consumption, we strongly support a regulatory risk assessment process, and encourage future research to evaluate the mitigation of any arsenic levels present in our total food supply."
It's important to know exactly what's in the food that you're feeding your kids even after they grow out of their baby stage. Don't rely on packaged and processed foods. Instead, check out these 25 foods that are perfect for your child's lunchbox.