A US congressional investigation has found “dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals” in certain baby foods. These levels of arsenic, lead and other toxic metals were said to possibly harm brain development.
In a report released on 4 February, a House Oversight subcommittee called in for new standards and testing requirements as they examined baby food made by seven popular companies.
High Levels Of Toxic Metal Found In Baby Food
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In examining metal in baby food, there were four companies that shared documents which were Nestle’s Gerber, Beech-Nut Nutrition, Nurture and Hain Celestial Group. Although the subcommittee was “greatly concerned” that Walmart, Campbell Soup and Sprout Organic Foods did not cooperate with the investigation.
According to the report, the internal company standards would permit dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury. The documents also revealed that manufacturers would often sell foods that exceed these levels.
Due to this report, US regulators were urged to set maximum levels of toxic heavy metals that would be permitted in baby foods. The report also urged them to require manufacturers to test finished products for any heavy metals that they may contain and not just their ingredients.
Baby food companies said they would work on reducing levels of metals that naturally occur in food products.
“It’s time that we develop much better standards for the sake of future generations,” says representative Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi who chaired the panel that released the report, according to The Straits Times.
FDA And Food Companies Respond
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A spokesman from the Food and Drug Administration said the agency was reviewing the report. They also noted how toxic elements are in the environment and would naturally go through soil, water and air to enter food supplies. Since they cannot be completely removed from food, the FDA said that their goal instead will be to reduce toxic elements exposure in foods to “the greatest extent feasible.”
“The FDA takes exposure to toxic elements in the food supply extremely seriously, especially when it comes to protecting the health and safety of the youngest and most vulnerable in the population,” the agency wrote on their official website.
Some of the other companies involved also gave their response to the issue of toxic metal in baby food:
Campbell Soup Co. released a statement on its own website claiming its products were safe and that they took note of “the unfortunate lack of a current FDA standard for heavy metals in baby food.”
Walmart said it already submitted information to the committee in February 2020 and that from then they never received subsequent inquiries. It added that the company requires private label product suppliers for its own internal specifications. For its baby and toddler foods, its levels must either meet or fall below the limits given by the FDA.
Happy Family Organics said it was disappointed in the many inaccuracies and “tone bias” in the report. It claimed that they were confident that all their products were safe for babies to enjoy and they welcome any additional guidelines from the FDA.
Hain Celestial Group also said the report had outdated data and that it did not reference the company’s current practices. Since then, it has taken several steps to in reducing levels of heavy metals in its finished products. This includes “no longer using brown rice in our products that are primarily rice based, changing other ingredients and conducting additional testing of finished product before shipping.”
Gerber’s representative said it would take multiple steps to minimise the presents of such elements for they can occur naturally in the soil and water where crops grow.
A Nestlé Singapore spokesperson has also responded to theAsianparent to confirm that Gerber products sold across the island are in compliance with the food safety requirements of the SFA.
“The health and safety of babies is our highest priority and we would like to assure parents and the public that all Gerber products are safe to consume,” the spokesperson told TAP.
Beech-Nut Nutrition said it is reviewing the report and assured parents that its baby food products were “safe and nutritious.” It also said it will work with other companies “on science-based standards that food suppliers can implement across our industry.”
According to ST, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said that Singapore had no imported baby food made by Nurture, Hain Celestial Group and Beech-Nut Nutrition in the past year. The agency added, “Our checks have not detected heavy metals exceeding the maximum limits stated in the Singapore Food Regulations in imported baby food made by Gerber.”
Foods that are not compliant with the food safety standards by SFA will not be allowed to be sold in Singapore.