In a new, extensive report, Consumer Reports documents how they found concerning amounts of heavy metals—including lead, mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium—in baby food and toddler snacks. They found the dangerous substances in popular snacks, cereals, prepared entrées, and packaged fruits and vegetables.
Over time, exposure to heavy metals can certainly have a negative impact on children and adults, notes Consumer Reports. However, while adults can certainly be impacted, the biggest concern is for the cognitive development of young children.
“Babies and toddlers are particularly vulnerable due to their smaller size and developing brains and organ systems,” says James E. Rogers, Ph.D., director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports. “They also absorb more of the heavy metals that get into their bodies than adults do.”
Consumer Reports looked at 50 nationally dibstributed packaged foods made for babies and toddlers to check for the harmful substances. Their findings were disturbing to the parents and grandparents of young children.
CR says they reached some troubling concussions about packaged baby food, which is fed to more than 90% of children under 3 at least occasionally.
Here's what they found. Below is quoted from their website.
• Every product had measurable levels of at least one of these heavy metals: cadmium, inorganic arsenic, or lead.
• About two-thirds (68 percent) had worrisome levels of at least one heavy metal.
• Fifteen of the foods would pose potential health risks to a child regularly eating just one serving or less per day.
• Snacks and products containing rice and/or sweet potatoes were particularly likely to have high levels of heavy metals.
• Organic foods were as likely to contain heavy metals as conventional foods.
While these results are certainly concerning, James Dickerson, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at Consumer Reports says parents don't need to panic. While there can be impact on cognitive development, "consuming these foods doesn’t guarantee that a child will develop health problems, but that it may simply increase that risk."
Whether a child will react poorly to the heavy metals in the baby food depends several factors. Those include genetics and exposure to heavy metals from over sources.
However, that doesn't mean you want to continue exposing your child to heavy metals. They can still be toxic, and the impact is long-term.
"Exposure to even small amounts of these heavy metals at an early age may increase the risk of several health problems, especially lower IQ and behavior problems, and have been linked to autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder," said the report.
The risks from heavy metals grow over time because they accumulate in the kidneys and other internal organs.
“These toxins can remain in your body for years,” says Tunde Akinleye, a chemist in Consumer Reports’ Food Safety Division who led our testing. "Regularly consuming even small amounts over a long period of time may raise the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer; cognitive and reproductive problems; and type 2 diabetes, among other conditions."
To examine the baby foods, CR purchased three samples of the 50 popular baby and toddler foods examined. They purchased these from retailers across the country.
Most of the products came from the two biggest U.S. baby food manufacturers, Beech-Nut and Gerber. Other brands were Baby Mum-Mum, Earth’s Best, Ella’s Kitchen, Happy Baby, Parent’s Choice (Walmart), Plum Organics, and Sprout.
About two-thirds of the products they tested contained concerning levels of cadmium, lead, and inorganic arsenic. However, more troubling, 15 of them would pose a risk to a child who ate one serving or less per day.
Those 15 food items include: Earth's Best Organic Chicken & Brown Rice; Earth's Best Turkey, Red Beans and Brown Rice; Gerber Chicken & Rice; Gerber Turkey & Rice; Sprout Organic Baby Food Garden Vegetables Brown Rice with Turkey; Gerber Lil' Meals White Turkey Stew with Rice & Vegetables; Gerber Carrot, Pear & Blackberry; Gerber Carrots Peas & Corn with Lil' Bits; Plum Organics Just Sweet Potato Organic Baby Food; Beech-Nut Classics Sweet Potatoes; Earth's Best Organic Sweet Potatoes, 1st Stage; Earth's Best Organic Whole Grain Rice Cereal; Earth's Best Organic Sunny Days Snack Bars, Strawberry; Happy Bab Organics Superfood Puffs, Apple & Broccoli; and Happy Baby Organics Superfood Puffs, Purple Carrot & Blueberry.
Consumer Reports say they informed the FDA of their overall findings. They agency replied,“The agency has made this a priority and is working to reduce the health risks these elements present, especially to those most vulnerable: children.”
The manufacturers said they are working to have higher safety in baby foods. The report quoted one "typical response"
“We are a responsible company with high safety standards for our ingredients and our products,” said Sprout. “We are continuing to work with the fruit and vegetable industry to look for the cleanest sources of ingredients. We fully support the evolution of FDA safety regulations that help ensure the highest levels of food safety standards for babies.”
If you have been giving these foods to your child, CR’s Dickerson says that it is important to have perspective.
“The heavy metal content in baby and toddler foods is a concerning issue but not an imminent threat,” he says. “The risk comes from exposure over time, and the risk can be mitigated. Making changes to your child’s diet now can reduce the chance of negative outcomes in the future.”
They especially advice parents to limit the amount of infant rice cereal your child eats. They should also limit packaged snacks.
Visit the Consumer Reports website for a full list of the baby foods tested and their findings. In other news, the FDA found that a common heart medication can cause cancer, and the recall was extended to include even more drugs on August 7. Please pray for anyone who may have been taking these common drugs.