Baby food may contain several dangerous metals. Here’s how parents can ensure children stay healthy
Products from leading baby food manufacturers have been found to contain high levels of potentially toxic heavy metals.
The federal government's proposed regulations, if passed, won't take effect for years, but a Kane In Your Corner investigation found there are steps parents can take now to keep their children safe.
Every parent may want to feed their babies healthy food, but Phillip Lamb, of Westfield New Jersey, goes the extra mile.
"I pretty much buy and make my own food these days," he says. "I don't know what things have been imported and what not, but it makes me worry."
Lamb and other parents could have cause to be concerned. In February, a congressional report found products from leading baby food manufacturers were "tainted" with toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury. That backs up previous testing by groups like Consumer Reports.
Medical professionals tell Kane In Your Corner parents should take that research seriously.
"We have a lot of data to suggest that these types of metals in a significant amount can really have an impact on one's health, especially people's neurologic and cognitive developments," says Dr. Deena Adimoolam, who specializes in Disease Prevention, Endocrinology and Nutrition.
Adimoolam says babies are particularly at risk because "they're growing, their brain is developing, so any exposure to these toxic elements in significant levels can have detrimental effects."
Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration announced plans to propose limits on lead and arsenic in baby food, But the limits won't take effect until 2024 at the earliest, and even when they do, they will be voluntary.
Experts also point out that getting levels to zero, as some advocates urge, could be difficult because arsenic and other metals get into food from soil and water. That also means that making your own baby food, like Philip Lamb, won't automatically protect your child.
But experts say there are a few simple steps you can take to help ensure the food your baby or toddler eats is safe.
"One of the first steps that's important to take is to limit intake of the highest risk foods," says Kevin Loria, of Consumer Reports, which has tested baby food for nearly a decade. "We're talking about things like rice cereal, sweet potatoes, juices, like apple juice, and grape juice."
Loria notes that some of those foods, like sweet potatoes, are healthy, but should be consumed in moderation, not every day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to avoid giving juice to children under one year of age. For older kids, ask your pediatrician for guidance.
Rice contains higher levels of arsenic, so doctors advise limiting your baby's consumption of rice cereal to two to three times a week. Also limit snacks like teething biscuits or puffs that also tend to contain higher levels of metals.
Above all, experts advise giving your child a variety of healthy food, not too much of any one thing. That's true whether you're buying your baby food in a jar or making it yourself.
"There's going to be some level of these chemicals in our environment every single day," Adimoolam says. "But I think it's about understanding the amount that is in the food that we're consuming and is in the environment around us."