“95% of baby foods that were tested in the U.S. contain toxic metals damaging to baby’s brain development.”
This charming headline came out today.
As the mom to 3 young kids, including a 7 month baby who is just starting to eat solids, it obviously caught my attention that toxic metals in baby food were found at such a high rate!
So, I wanted to pass along the information so others can be aware of the report as well.
So what exactly did the report say?
A new study found that 95% (so yeah you guys that’s like basically all the baby food) of tested baby foods contain toxic chemicals known to lower babies’ IQ. The chemicals found in the food include arsenic and lead.
The tests included 168 baby foods from major manufacturers in the U.S. 95% contained lead, 73% contained arsenic, 75% contained cadmium and 32% contained mercury. 1 out of 4 foods tested contained a combo of all four heavy metals.
1 out of 5 baby foods had over 10x the 1-ppb limit of lead endorsed by public health advocates (although according to experts no level of lead is really safe).
Again, this was a lovely report to stumble upon!
I enjoy when I get comforting information like this. Parenting is already relaxing and the news just HELPS.
How can this impact my baby?
Arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury – all chemicals that were found in the tested baby food – are neurotoxins that can have a permanent impact on the developing brain, including lowering a child’s IQ and affecting their behavior.
The impact of exposure to these toxins adds up the more meals and snacks a baby eats containing these metals.
As a parent who has been known to use baby pouches on occasion (actually on many occasions!) I wanted more info.
I understand that we live in a world where we’re exposed to a lot of less than desirable contaminants ALL THE TIME. But, I’d like to take some precautions with my baby.
She’s little. And cute. And a baby.
A little about toxic heavy metals, including lead and arsenic:
- Toxic heavy metals pose health risks that include cancer and a decreased ability to learn in children
- These chemicals are often found in soil, water and food
- Not all foods carry an equal risk! Some foods have higher levels than others
- The FDA has no set safety standards for heavy metals. Advocates are urging more decisive action by the FDA
- Short of the FDA setting some standards here, the best we can do is to cut down on toxic heavy metals in our baby’s and toddler’s diets.
Why would these toxic heavy metals be in baby food to begin with? Are they trying to poison us?!
No, it does not appear that anyone is trying to poison us.
These harmful metals are in all foods, not just food marketed for babies. They occur both naturally and as the result of environmental pollution.
However – the presence of these toxins in baby food raises a higher level of concern because babies are uniquely sensitive to the impact of toxins.
What can parents do about this? Breastfeed forever?
Again, that’s a no. Unless you want to. If so, by all means, carry on.
Assuming that’s not your plan, here’s the deal. We can find a way to make some better choices to reduce the risk.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to offer their young children a wide variety of first foods – grains like oats and quinoa, avocado, peanut-butter oatmeal, salmon, and pureed vegetables are all good places to start. Meats can also provide the iron and zinc small babies need.
The above options can condition babies to develop a preference for healthy food, and may also help prevent allergies.
Some popular baby foods are higher offenders than others.
Let’s take a look to see how we can reduce the toxic exposure, shall we?
Rice-based snacks, juice, and sweet potatoes are especially bad.
In fact, infant rice cereal is the #1 source of arsenic in infant’s diets. Yes, the rice cereal that is always recommended to new parents as a good “starter food.”
Come on kids, let’s just kick things off with a taste of arsenic!
A better choice is to select cereals that are naturally low in arsenic such as oatmeal and multi-grain cereals. I feel like it goes without saying that we want foods that are naturally low in arsenic, but I said it anyway.
Rice continues to be a top source of exposure to arsenic even for toddlers.
If you do choose to serve rice to your toddler, it’s recommended that you cook the rice in extra water, pouring it off before eating. This cuts the arsenic levels significantly, based on FDA studies.
Also note – basmati rice (grown in California, India and Pakistan) and white rice have less arsenic than brown rice.
It’s helpful to eat a variety of grains to help cut down on your family’s overall exposure to toxins. Some options include amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, millet and polenta. Bulgar, barley and farro are also suggested.
I’m not gonna lie I don’t know what all of those are. But I think the takeaway point is that we should diversify as best we can, and don’t overdo it with the rice.
We can’t stop all toxic metals from being found in baby food!
You can greatly cut down on toxic heavy metals in your baby’s or toddler’s diet.
Here’s where we can focus our efforts.
Puffs and other snacks made with rice flour are high in arsenic. Choose rice-free packaged snacks.
Other healthy snack options with fewer contaminants include: apples, unsweetened applesauce, bananas, beans, barley with diced veggies, cheese, grapes (cut the long way), hard-boiled eggs, peaches and yogurt.
Note: Rice-free baby snacks contain 93% less toxic heavy metals than their counterparts.
As noted above, infant rice cereal is the #1 source of arsenic in infant’s diets. You can reduce exposure to arsenic by 84% by choosing other cereals that are naturally lower in arsenic, like oatmeal and multi-grain cereals.
Teething biscuits can contain heavy metals. If your baby is having teething pain, try frozen bananas or a peeled, chilled cucumber instead.
Not only is juice generally not good for kids, but it also contains some lead and arsenic. Frequent use of juice is a common source of heavy metal consumption in kids.
Try to stick with water and milk as much as possible. Babies under 6 months only need breast milk or formula. I bet you already know that. Just covering my bases here.
Fruits and Veggies
Sweet potatoes and carrots provide a lot of nutrition, but they area also high in lead and cadmium.
Keep feeding your kid these veggies! Just mix it up with lots of other fruits and vegetables as well.
Ok, so toxic metals are found in baby food.
I don’t mean to be alarmist about this. In fact, I’m not all that surprised by it. But as a parent of young kids I want to make sure that I do what I can to mitigate risk.
If I know that baby food contains toxic metals, and I still plan to feed my baby (which I do believe you’re legally obligated to feed your baby, so…) the best I can do is understand the information I’m getting and try to make good choices.
PS – If you’re still feeding your baby breastmilk alongside solids, it’s important to keep safety in mind on that front as well. This post on the ins and outs of how to store and thaw breastmilk properly might be handy!
For more detailed information please check out healthybabyfood.org. You can find the report in its entirety here.
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