A new bill introduced in the state House of Representatives would set limits on toxic heavy metals in baby food and require testing of all baby food made in Pennsylvania.
House Bill 2535, introduced by Rep. Liz Hanbidge, D-Montgomery, has been referred to the House Health Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren.
Hanbidge offers the following limits for toxic heavy metals in baby foods sold in Pennsylvania stores:
¯ inorganic arsenic — 10 parts per billion
¯ lead — 5 parts per billion
¯ cadmium — 5 parts per billion
¯ mercury — 2 parts per billion.
“We should take every precaution necessary to protect Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable residents, our children,” Hanbidge wrote in his legislative memorandum. “Therefore, I will be introducing legislation that would require the Pennsylvania Department of Health to test a representative sample of every lot of baby food manufactured in the Commonwealth for the presence of toxic heavy metals. In addition, all food products babies who have been tested should be labeled with the levels of inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury and other toxic heavy metals found in representative samples.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, called on the federal Food and Drug Administration to look into the matter in 2019. The New York senator said consumers “to rightly expect these foods to be undeniably safe, appropriately regulated and nutritious.”
Schumer explained that the FDA created a Toxic Elements Task Force in 2017 to modernize safety standards for toxic metals Americans are exposed to, including in food. However, the agency has not introduced any new standards since then. For example, the FDA failed to finalize arsenic guidelines for baby rice cereal and apple juice by the end of 2018, a deadline the agency had set.
The resulting congressional investigation, completed in February 2021, found levels of arsenic, lead and other toxic metals in many popular baby foods, including organic brands, according to The Associated Press. . A U.S. House subcommittee requested internal data from seven companies, including Walmart, in 2019 after a nonprofit called Healthy Babies Bright Futures released food test results for babies. Four of the companies — Gerber, Beech-Nut, Earth’s Best Organics maker Hain Celestial and Happy Family Organics maker Nurture Inc. — shared documents. The subcommittee said Walmart, Sprout Foods and Campbell Soup Co., which makes Plum Organics baby food, did not cooperate.
Arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury — metals the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers harmful to human health — can remain in the environment for decades from past use of pesticides and herbicides, Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumer Reports, told The Associated Press.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, supports the Baby Food Safety Act in Congress. The Baby Food Safety Act would limit the amount of lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium in baby food by placing strict requirements on manufacturers to regularly test and verify that their baby food comply with new lower limits for these substances. The legislation would also require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to further lower limits for toxic metals within two years, introduce regulations within three years and review regulatory limits every five years.
“It is outrageous that trusted brands knowingly sell toxic baby food to unsuspecting parents,” Gillibrand said recently. “Lead and other heavy metals cause serious and permanent damage to the health of our children. We must act now to keep our children safe, and I am proud to introduce this bill that will do just that.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and was also co-sponsored by Senators Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Cory Booker, DN.J., and Dianne Feinstein, D-California.