Dangerous Contaminants, Including Arsenic, Found in Over 100 Baby Foods

November 07, 2017Nov 07, 2017

More than 25 percent of 500 infant formulas and baby foods that were tested exceeded state or federal safety guidelines under a new study conducted by Clean Label Project, a national non-profit organization dedicated to analyzing consumer products.

According to Food Quality & Safety, traces of lead, arsenic mercury bisphenol A (BPA) and acrylamide were among the contaminants detected at unsafe levels. 

“The World Health Organization reports that during the first 1,000 days of life, the foundation of optimal health, growth, and neurodevelopment across the entire lifespan are established, making the findings particularly alarming,” said Jaclyn Bowen, MPH, MS, executive director, Clean Label Project, Denver, Colorado.

The contaminants found in the study were higher than expected, according to Sean Callan, PhD, director of operations and quality for Denver, Colorado-based Ellipse Analytics. More than 35 percent of baby food products tested had measurable levels of lead, which is 40 percent higher than a report published in June by the Environmental Defense Fund.


In that report, lead was discovered in one in five baby food samples, including grape juice and apple juice. In fact, 89% of grape juice samples contained levels of lead. Orange juice had much lower levels.

“This is the most concerning finding because lead, in addition to being linked to cancer, impairs brain function,” said Callan. “Early life exposure to lead has been linked to a decline in IQ and other neurological contaminants.”

Among the toxic chemicals discovered was acrylamide, a neurotoxin and carcinogen. Also, over half of the products contained arsenic. Of the 500 products tested, as many as one-third exceeded at least one state or federal guidance level.

BPA was also discovered in 5 percent of the foods, Ironically, in 60 percent of those tested to have BPA, the packaging declared that their products were BPA-free, Callan said. BPA is understood to be an endocrine disrupter, which means that it alters hormone levels.

In the study conducted by the Environmental Defense Fund, it was detected that 20 percent of baby food samples contained lead. Jennifer Lowry, MD, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health and Chief of Medical Toxicology at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, noted that the amount of lead is concerning.

"The FDA limits are decades old and don't reflect what we know now," said Lowry. "It's now recognized that lead is more toxic than we thought."

Experts recommend that the best way to lessen the contamination is for your child to eat a variety of foods. Making your own food is also an option, but it doesn’t necessarily eliminate the risk, said Lowry.

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