Toxic metals found in nearly all tested baby foods, study finds

A new study examining baby food has found that toxic heavy metals were present in nearly all brands tested. Toxic heavy metals can be damaging to babies’ brain development, even in trace amounts, according to the study.

Healthy Babies Bright Futures, an organization that calls itself “an alliance of nonprofit organizations, scientists and donors” that are trying to “reduce babies’ exposures to toxic chemicals in the first 1,000 days of development” executed the study. The organization tested containers from 168 types of baby food from 61 brands to levels of four different toxic heavy metals: cadmium, lead, arsenic and mercury.

The tests found that 94% of containers tested positive for lead. 73% tested positive for arsenic, 75% tested positive for cadmium and 32% tested positive for mercury. 26% of containers tested contained all four metals.

Additionally, containers of 25 of the foods tested were sent to a separate lab. The lab found perchlorate, another neurotoxin. perchlorate disrupts thyroid functions crucial to brain development and has been linked to IQ loss among children born to mothers with thyroid dysfunction, according to the study.

“Even in the trace amounts found in food, these contaminants can alter the developing brain and erode a child’s IQ. The impacts add up with each meal or snack a baby eats,” the report said.

The study emphasized that the amount of a particular contaminant was not the main concern, as the tests showed most metals were found at low levels in the foods tested, However, since babies’ are exposed to the metals multiple times daily, the impacts add up.

Rice-based products, fruit juices and sweet potatoes had the highest risk of containing toxic heavy metals, according to the study. Parents were encouraged to purchase rice-free baby snacks and infant cereals to reduce their children’s exposure. The study also recommended tap water for children instead of fruit juice. Levels of arsenic in fruit juice weren’t as high as in other foods, but toddlers drink juice often, which makes juices a top source of heavy metal exposure. Instead of carrot or sweet potato based baby foods, the study recommends purchasing baby foods made of other fruits and veggies.

The study also urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and major baby food companies to take action to reduce the levels of these toxic metals from food. The study suggested companies source rice from fields with lower arsenic levels in the soil and blending it with lower arsenic grains in multigrain products.

The study also urged the FDA to establish and finalize health standards for heavy metals in food, as well as establish a proactive testing program.