Congressional investigators said on Thursday that the content in some organic materials, including many organic foods, is contaminated with heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and cadmium, far beyond what products like bottled water allow.
Some experts said that despite the obvious risk to infants and children, some experts underscored the federal government’s consistently lax attitude toward monitoring the safety of baby food. Exposure to heavy metals in particular has been linked to behavioral impairment, brain damage, and even death.
“It’s a spatial problem that’s swept under the rug and is never addressed,” said Tracy Woodruff, director of the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment at the University of California at San Francisco, who was not involved in the congressional preparations . Report good.
He said, “It talks about the many areas we need the government to be active in.” “Consumers can’t detect it.”
The report of a subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform reacted to data from four companies that responded to requests for information about policies and test results about their products.
Investigators reserved their harsh criticism for three other companies that did not provide the requested information: Walmart, which sells parental choice and parental choice organic products; Sprouted organic foods; And Campbell Soup Company, a manufacturer of plum organics baby foods.
Representative king Krishnamurthy, a Democrat from Illinois, who is the chairman of the subcommittee, said the failure to provide the information sought “increases the concern that perhaps there is evidence of even greater metal content in their baby foods than their rivals.”
Representatives of Walmart and Campbell Soup disputed the characterization, stating that the companies had responded to requests for information, although they acknowledged that they did not provide test data. Sprout did not respond to a request for comment.
The Food and Drug Administration does not set limits on heavy metals, especially for baby foods, except arsenic in rice grains. The agency regulates lead in bottled water, juices and candies, and also limits arsenic and cadmium in bottled water.
Krishnamurthy said that the agency is “AWOL” and has completely put its head in the sand and has done nothing to regulate the industry. He He said that there are plans to enact legislation to tighten the regulatory supervision of baby food.
An FDA spokeswoman said the agency was working toward reducing toxins in foods, and setting a limit for inorganic arsenic in baby rice grains was the first step towards doing so, although expert groups on this limit Has been criticized as high by.
The agency also cautioned parents that rice grains do not require an infant’s introduction to solid foods and that they should not rely too heavily on it, and provide a varied grain diet.
Companies rarely test baby food for contaminants before sending jars to retail shelves. Two companies did so – Nutrition, which makes Happy Family Organics products, and Han Celestial, which produces the best organic foods on Earth – inorganic arsenic levels exceeded 100 billion per billion, in 2016 of infant rice grains. Limit proposed by FDA for. Formally adopted last year.
Nutrition called its own internal “round threshold” at 100 ppb “puffs” for arsenic, exceeding that limit.
Gemma Hart, a spokesperson for Nurture, said Happy Family products were safe and that these metals, which are found naturally in soil and water, were present only in “trace amounts”.
Although heavy metals occur naturally in some metals and vegetables, food manufacturers have to add other foods to the baby’s food, such as enzymes and vitamins and mineral mixtures, which are heavy with metals, reported Having said. Manufacturers rarely test the material for mercury.
Investigators also described that he made a “secret” industry presentation to the FDA on August 1, 2019. Hahn’s representatives told regulators that testing only the individual ingredients in the baby’s food underestimated the content of heavy metals in the final product.
For example, tests of inorganic arsenic individual ingredients were estimated to have been 28 percent to 93 percent higher in Han’s prepared baby food. According to the report, half of its brown rice products exceed 100 parts per billion.
Robin Shallow, a spokesperson for Hain, said the company stopped using brown rice in rice grains in September 2020, although “rice is present in very small amounts” in other products. He said that since January 2020, the company’s amount of inorganic arsenic in all rice grains is less than 100 per billion.
She Describing the characterization of the meeting with the FDA as cryptic, the goal was to discuss reducing metals in finished products.
Beech-nuts, which used ingredients with high levels of arsenic to improve properties such as “crumb softness” in some products, set very generous thresholds for arsenic and cadmium, according to the report: Vitamins 3,000 ppb of cadmium in additives such as mixes, and 5,000 ppp lead in an enzyme additive called BAN 800.
According to the report, the company used cinnamon, with a volume of 886.9 PPP. Investigators said the company’s standard for cadmium and lead in additive ingredients “surpassed any existing regulatory standard in existence.” Other spices like parsley and cumin were also in high quantities.
By comparison, the FDA states that lead should not exceed 5 ppb in bottled water, 50 ppb in juice and 100 ppb in candy. Cadmium in bottled water should not exceed 5 ppb, the agency has stated. The European Union limits cadmium to 15 ppb in infant formula.
“No level of exposure to these metals has been shown to be safe in vulnerable infants,” said Linda Macaulay, dean of the Nell Hodgson Woodroff School of Nursing at Emory University, which studies environmental health effects.
He stated that exposure from multiple sources can cause cumulative effects that are dangerous for infants.
In a statement, Beech-Nut Nutrition did not address specific amounts, but sought to reassure parents that the company had “rigorous testing protocols and strict standards.”
Investigators cited Gerber, one of the world’s best-known baby food manufacturers, for using ingredients with high levels of lead and selling carrots with high levels of cadmium.
The company took steps to minimize the metals in its products, a spokeswoman Dana Stambaugh said, adding, “The health and safety of infants is our top priority.”
The FDA reported to set standards for heavy metals in baby food, which would protect infants from neurological injury, not reduce the risk of developing diseases such as cancer in the long term.
Investigators said the agency should test prepared foods for heavy metals, not just the ingredients; Report test results on food labels so that consumers can see them; And phase out materials like rice, which can be loaded with heavy metals.
Meanwhile, parents can protect infants by not feeding them rice or other products such as snacks made from rice flour. According to the report, healthy-sounding snacks such as Nurture Happy Baby’s apples and broccoli puffs or its strawberry and beet puffs contain high amounts of arsenic.
Although rice grains are often one of the first foods of a child, both white and brown rice have levels of inorganic arsenic that are grains made from grains, barley, oatmeal, organic quinoa, wheat, or buckwheat Is six times more than that. Nonprofit Group Healthy Babies Bright Futures.
The group released a report on heavy metals in baby foods in 2019. It also recommends that parents not use early biscuits that may contain heavy metals and cause tooth decay.
Parents should not give children juice to drink, the group says, and provide a variety of fruits and vegetables, so that exposure to carrots and sweet potatoes is minimized, which can be high in lead and cadmium is.