Jonathan Sharp — FDA disappoints parents by allowing heavy metals in baby food


In February 2021, a congressional report exposing four popular baby food companies for manufacturing products for children under 36 months with alarming levels of toxic metals was made public.

Since then, parents across the country have understandably been outraged, but the FDA has taken no concrete action to address the issue. Instead, the agency has proposed the Closer to Zero plan, which aims to “minimize exposure to toxic elements from food consumed by babies and young children.”

However, the FDA strategy is quite problematic as the Closer to Zero plan would not materialize until 2024 or later.

To understand the seriousness of the problem, a comparison between the safe limit for arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury and what the Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee found in the companies’ products is needed. . Therefore, while the safe limit for arsenic is 10 ppb, Beech-Nut has used ingredients containing over 880 ppb of arsenic. At the same time, Hain Celestial authorized the marketing of baby food containing 309 ppb of arsenic. Lead was found in Hain Celestial baby food at a concentration of over 300 ppb, when the upper limit is 5 ppb, while over 340 ppb of cadmium was present in Beech-Nut products when the safety limit for this metal is also 5 ppb.

The Closer to Zero plan would take so long because it has four steps, the first two of which are unnecessary and redundant. These steps – “evaluate the scientific basis for action levels” and “propose action levels” – can easily be ignored by the FDA, since we already know the safety limits for toxic metals from the Subcommittee on economic and consumer policy. Specifically, safety limits for arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury were proposed in the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021, a bill initiated by Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. He was also the one who conducted the survey of baby food companies.

Nevertheless, the third stage of the Closer to Zero plan involves practical actions, namely the evaluation of the feasibility and practicality of the security limits. Indeed, the FDA should ensure that all baby food companies in the country have access to the means necessary to keep the toxic metal content in their products below the maximum allowable limit. Some of the practices that agencies should encourage manufacturers to implement are sourcing rice from crops grown in low arsenic soil, growing crops with natural soil additives to reduce uptake of toxic metals and the use of food strains less likely to absorb toxic metals.

Additionally, the Closer to Zero plan has additional shortcomings, such as failing to explicitly address the growing effect of toxic metals on children’s neurodevelopment, failing to take more aggressive steps to minimize the intake of toxic metals in children and not clearly defining what “as little as possible” is. possible” and “food for children” mean. Still, one ray of hope for parents would be the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021.

In March 2021, the Baby Food Safety Act, the aim of which is to immediately set maximum allowable limits for toxic metals in foods for infants and toddlers, was introduced by Krishnamoorthi. Unlike the FDA’s Closer to Zero plan, the bill would require baby food companies to keep toxic metal levels below safe limits when it takes effect. It would also give the FDA more authority in this regard.

If the Baby Food Safety Act became law, parents of infants and toddlers would no longer have to worry about toxic metals endangering the health of their children, and baby food companies would be obligated to make these products ethically without cutting corners.

Jonathan Sharp is Chief Financial Officer at Environmental Litigation Group, a Birmingham, Alabama law firm specializing in exposure to toxic substances. He wrote this for

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