A report was released earlier this month that stated popular brands of baby food and infant formula contain significantly high levels of toxic heavy metals including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury (1). To add to these already alarming findings, most of these brands are certified USDA organic.
The Food and Drug Administration and World Health Organization have classified heavy metals as toxic to human health because they interfere with normal physiologic function and cause an increased risk for cancer, dementia, neurotoxicity, kidney disease, liver disease, insomnia, emotional instability, depression, and in high enough doses, death (2,3,4).
Babies and children are even more susceptible to the dangerous health consequences of toxic heavy metal exposure because they are growing and developing at a rapid rate. Even low levels of toxic heavy metal exposure are linked to irreversible brain and developmental damage (1). Research has shown that heavy metal exposure can cause a permanently reduced IQ and an increased risk for criminal and withdrawn behavior in children (1,5).
In November 2019, government officials requested internal documents from seven of the largest baby food and infant formula manufacturers in the U.S. based on studies that found high levels of toxic heavy metals in their finished products (6,7).
The brands under investigation included:
- Nurture, Inc. (makes Happy Family Organic and HappyBABY baby food)
- Beech-Nut Nutrition Company
- Hain Celestial Group (makes Earth’s Best Organic baby food)
- Campbell’s Soup (which makes Plum Organics baby food)
- Walmart (Parent’s choice)
- Sprout Foods, Inc. (Sprout Organic Foods)
Only four of the seven companies in question agreed to cooperate with the investigation (Nurture, Beech-Nut, Hain, Gerber) raising concern that the non-responders may have even higher levels of toxic heavy metals than their competitors.
All responding companies had arsenic, lead, and cadmium present in their baby food. Not all companies tested for mercury, but the ones that did had exceedingly high levels. On top of that, reports showed up to 91 times the arsenic level, 177 times the lead level, 69 times the cadmium level, and 5 times the mercury level allowed under existing regulations by the FDA and EPA.
How does something like this happen? Present-day industrialized food manufacturing processes raise the risk for heavy metal contamination in our food supply (including baby food!) through mechanical processing by means of heavy machinery or leakage from packaging materials (6).
What can you do to protect your child from heavy metal exposure in their baby food? Make your own! Making your own baby food is the best way to have control over your child’s exposure to heavy metals as well as know exactly what is going into their food from start to finish. Steaming fresh, organic fruits and vegetables (ex: apples, bananas, pears, peaches, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas) will retain nutrient quality and composition better than boiling. Puree cooked fruits and veggies with a small amount of water or breast milk until smooth and serve. Don’t add sugar, syrups, or artificial flavorings as these can be harmful to your child’s growth and development as well. Instead, try using cinnamon or mix in pureed sweeter fruits like apples or pears.
If you don’t have the time to make your baby’s food research baby food brands and infant formula that test for the presence of heavy metals, like Cerebelly.
Tune into our next newsletter for part 2 of “Raising awareness: the dangerous truth behind the toxins present in our food supply”.
- Jan AT, Azam M, Siddiqui K, Ali A, Choi I, Haq QM. Heavy Metals and Human Health: Mechanistic Insight into Toxicity and Counter Defense System of Antioxidants. Int J Mol Sci. 2015;16(12):29592-29630. Published 2015 Dec 10. doi:10.3390/ijms161226183
- Pan S, Lin L, Zeng F, et al. Effects of lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury co-exposure on children’s intelligence quotient in an industrialized area of southern China. Environ Pollut. 2018;235:47-54. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2017.12.044
- Vella C, Attard E. Consumption of Minerals, Toxic Metals and Hydroxymethylfurfural: Analysis of Infant Foods and Formulae. Toxics. 2019;7(2):33. Published 2019 Jun 8. doi:10.3390/toxics7020033
- Gardener H, Bowen J, Callan SP. Lead and cadmium contamination in a large sample of United States infant formulas and baby foods. Sci Total Environ. 2019;651(Pt 1):822-827. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.09.026