On February 4, 2021, the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy released a report finding that seven baby food manufacturers in the United States have sold baby food containing dangerously high levels of heavy metals, like lead and arsenic, which harm an infant’s development and can result in substantial injury.
While some manufacturers refused to provide their data, the report identified Gerber, Beech-Nut, Parent’s Choice (Walmart), Earth’s Best Organic (Hain Celestial Group), Plum Organics (Campbell), HappyBABY (Nurture, Inc.) and Sprout Organic Food brands as including potentially dangerous levels of these metals.
Of these companies, Gerber, Beech-Nut, Earth’s Best Organics maker Hain Celestial and Happy Family Organics maker Nurture Inc. shared documents for the report. Walmart, Sprout Foods and Campbell Soup Co., which makes Plum Organics baby food refused to cooperate. In August 2020, the FDA finalized guidance for infant rice cereal, recommending it contain no more than 100 parts per billion of arsenic. The subcommittee’s report said Beech-Nut used some ingredients that tested as high as 913 parts per billion for arsenic, while Earth’s Best Organics used ingredients testing as high as 309 parts per billion for arsenic. While some manufacturers claim the report relied on outdated data, they failed to provide contrary evidence to consider.
As the report itself concluded: “The Subcommittee’s investigation proves that commercial baby foods contain dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, mercury, and cadmium. These toxic heavy metals pose serious health risks to babies and toddlers. Manufacturers knowingly sell these products to unsuspecting parents, in spite of internal company standards and test results, and without any warning labeling whatsoever.”
Child exposure to toxic heavy metals including lead paint in old housing and water pollution from landfills have been limited by an array of federal and state laws and passed to protect child health through emissions standards, among other things. Exposure to toxic heavy metals causes permanent decreases in IQ, diminished future economic productivity, and increased risk of future criminal and antisocial behavior in children. Toxic heavy metals endanger infant neurological development and long-term brain function. While the FDA will need set formal limits on heavy metals in baby foods, Cellino Law will continue monitoring and investigating the danger current products present to the most vulnerable members of our community.