New parents want the best for their children, but chances are they are unknowingly giving them baby foods that contain toxic heavy metals, and a new report has added to the pile of studies scientists who show how it can hinder brain development.
US Congressional investigators have found “dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals” in certain baby foods that could cause neurological damage, a House oversight subcommittee wrote in a report released in early February. He called for new testing standards, including setting maximum levels of toxic heavy metals allowed in baby foods and requiring manufacturers to test finished products for heavy metals, not just individual ingredients.
This update comes more than a year after similar news made headlines following a survey published by Healthy Babies Bright Futures in October 2019. According to this organization, tests of 168 baby foods from the Major US manufacturers revealed that 95% contained some form of metal – almost all contained lead, 75 percent contained cadmium, 73 percent contained arsenic, and 32 percent contained mercury. One in four foods all contained it.
“Our results raise concerns, but on the worry-to-action spectrum, parents can choose to take action. While no amount of heavy metals is considered safe, less is better.”
Reports of such contaminants hidden in infant foods are not even new. It has been almost a decade since reports revealed levels of arsenic in rice. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended diversifying babies’ diets to reduce risk, and in 2016, the Food and Drug Administration began creating limits on the amount of natural ingredients that can be present in babies. food. And more reports keep coming. Earlier this year, Consumer reports announced that potentially harmful heavy metals have been found in popular juice brands.
So what are parents doing with all of these repeated – and alarming – studies?
Until recently, the AAP’s long-standing recommendation was the gold standard. A diverse diet would prevent any of these metals from causing significant damage.
But the Healthy Babies Bright Futures study gave “the very first estimates of population-wide IQ drops due to children’s exposure to lead and arsenic in food, from birth to 24 years old. month”. He claimed that “even in trace amounts found in food, these contaminants can alter a developing brain and erode a child’s IQ” and noted that it adds up to every meal or snack that a baby has. eat.
According to Healthy Babies Bright Futures, parents can provide safer alternatives for their babies. The main takeaways from the report focus on introducing more nutritional variety and avoiding the most common culprits:
- Offer a wide variety of first foods. The AAP maintains its guidelines that parents should offer more diverse options from the start. A mixture of grains – barley, wheat and quinoa, for example – is better than one. And introducing mashed vegetables as early as possible helps babies develop their taste buds and reduce potential food allergies.
- Avoid rice. It is essential to give up rice in all its forms, especially rice cereals, which are often suggested as a baby’s first food, as rice-based foods are at the top of the contaminated food list. Oatmeal or multigrain cereals are ideal substitutes. If you choose to cook rice for toddlers, the report recommends choosing basmati rice (“white rice has less arsenic than brown rice”) and cooking it in additional water that is poured in. before serving.
- Avoid teething cookies. These can also contain a host of heavy metals, so opt for a wet washcloth or silicone teething ring. If food is preferred, a frozen banana or chilled cucumber are better.
- Avoid juices. Not only are juices high in sugar and lacking in fiber, but they also contain lead and arsenic, which is why the AAP strongly recommends that parents keep them away from their children. Babies under 6 months old only need breast milk or formula, and beyond that, water and milk are the best choices.
- Pay attention to orange root vegetables. Sweet potatoes and carrots are great sources of vitamin A, but the report found them to be high in lead and cadmium. While no one is suggesting that kids shouldn’t eat these veggies, continuing to offer variety helps mitigate the risks.
The study’s tests indicate that these simple actions can help significantly reduce a baby’s exposure to harmful heavy metals:
Still, the study warns parents against panic and admits that this is just one of many things that can affect a baby’s development:
“There are many factors that can influence a child’s IQ, from nutrition and genetics to environmental toxins,” the report says. “And many sources increase children’s exposure to heavy metals, drinking water and old lead plastic toys in dust from peeling paint and soil entering the home. raise concerns, but on the worry-to-action spectrum, parents can choose to take action. While no amount of heavy metals is considered safe, less is more. “