Heavy Metals in Baby Food - Biochemist and Pediatrician & Public Health Expert Weighs In

If you’ve been following the latest in parenting concerns, you have probably become uncomfortably familiar with lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and an additional neurotoxin called perchlorate.

That’s because, as a recent Staff Report  from the U.S. House of Representatives detailed, many popular baby food and formula manufacturers have concerning levels of the previously mentioned heavy metals. These brands include: Nurture Inc (Happy Family Organics, and HappyBaby), Beech-Nut Nutrition Company, Hain Celestial Group Inc (Earth's Best Organic), Gerber, Campbell Soup Company (Plum Organics), Walmart (Parent's Choice), and Sprout Foods, Inc.

The Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, Committee on Oversight and Reform created this report as a response to an October 2019 study from the non-profit Healthy Babies Bright Future (HBBF) organization. The non-profit tested toxic heavy metals in 61 baby food brands and 168 different food and formula products. The issue is that although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is responsible for all food safety and regularly tests products for heavy metal contamination, the agency hasn’t set maximum allowable levels of heavy metals in baby food. 

But let’s break the reality of this down. Foods tend to already have trace heavy metals, vegetables especially. As our resident Biochemist at Little Bundle said, “Things that grow in the soil retain what the soil has and soil has metals! And metals are actually naturally occurring elements that can be found everywhere — including soil and drinking water. However, some amount of metal is present because of environmental contamination as well.” 

The question is do these have more than what you would make at home? How much is too much? There are so many unknowns. However, our bodies filter out heavy metals through the kidneys and liver but not everyone can do that 100% effectively. The test results of baby foods and their ingredients have shown up to 91 times the arsenic level, up to 177 times the lead level, up to 69 times the cadmium level, and up to 5 times the mercury level. It has been suggested by proponents of more discerning policy regulations that the FDA should be more rigorous with their standards and require better reporting. Our Chief Medical Advisor Dr.Lorraine Beraho, a Board-Certified Pediatrician weighs in on this topic.

It is important to note that most store-bought baby food is still safe and healthy. Though scary, these findings bring to light the need for stricter regulations in the baby food industry. 

Rest assured, however, that low levels of heavy metals found in baby foods are not likely to pose the highest risk of a child's overall toxic metal exposure and efforts to minimize exposure  from all sources should be minimized to avoid interfering with healthy brain development.”

So what does this mean in regards to European baby foods and formula?

Mérieux NutriSciences, a European tearing agency, provides a complete service covering analytical, regulatory and consulting needs. As reported on their website, merieuxnutrisciences.com, “Requirements and limits for contaminants and residues in baby food are very stringent, with much lower levels than any other non-baby food product: pesticides, veterinary drugs, mycotoxins, heavy metals, etc. must meet strict requirements to ensure safety and quality.”

As a rule, the general consensus is that US standards are more lenient than those of European regulations. And in either case, there will always be some small amount of heavy metals present in foods but it would take exorbitant amounts to deem them extremely problematic. However, even with that information, being a parent means only wanting the best for your child. Opting for less risk comes down to making the choice between a LITTLE bit of a problem vs. the larger issue of having no set max of allowable heavy metal levels by FDA standards in what you feed your baby. 

It's Little Bundle's mission to carry infant formula with the strictest organic standards, and that's exactly why we chose European formula. The European Commission has stricter regulations than the US’s Food and Drug Administration about what can and cannot be included in infant and toddler formula. Additionally, this means European-produced formulas have higher-quality ingredient lists and do not contain the unhealthy additives that you will find in many formulas produced in the United States. In order for a formula to be certified organic, at least 95% of all ingredients and processing aids also have to be organic. We’ve created an in-depth guide detailing what organic formula is, which ingredients to look out for, and the benefits of various organic formulas. Check out our Best Organic Baby Formula: 2021 Buyers Guide to get the full scoop (pun intended!) on organic formula. Also be sure to check out our entire formula collection for more details. 

Have more questions? 

Use our live chat, send us a message or shoot us an email at hello@littlebundle.com. Our Customer Success team of Infant Nutrition Technicians have a top priority to help you provide the best nutrition for your little one. 

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