New House Report on Heavy Metals in Baby Food
Monday, October 4, 2021
  • Many of our readers will recall a February 4, 2021 report by the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy (summarized here) that raised alarm regarding the levels of heavy metals— including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury— reportedly found in baby foods produced by seven of the largest baby food manufacturers in the U.S.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a response on February 16, 2021, as discussed here, outlining the current regulatory activities for assuring that naturally occurring toxic elements in many crops do not reach dangerous levels in food.  Soon after, on March 5, 2021, FDA announced new activities, including a letter to baby food manufactures, increased sampling and other plans (as discussed here) that target reducing the levels of toxic elements in baby food.  On April 8, 2021, FDA released a new Closer to Zero action plan involving four stages: (1) Evaluate the science, (2) Propose action levels, (3) Consult with stakeholders, and (4) Finalize action levels for lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury.  As discussed here, FDA’s Closer to Zero action plan is scheduled to unfold in phases over several years, with the first phase (proposing action levels for lead in various categories of baby foods) scheduled for completion by April 2022.

  • On September 29, 2021, just seven months after its initial report, the same congressional subcommittee released a new report that adds test results the authors deem concerning for some Plum Organics and Sprout products (not reviewed in the first report), and new information from Walmart (also not discussed in the first report) which the authors characterize as showing a decrease in protective standards.  Summaries of the companies’ responses to the report’s claims are available here.

  • Recommendations in the new report, which is critical of all baby food manufacturers’ handling of toxic elements, as well as FDA’s timeline for publishing draft and final limits for lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury in baby foods, include:

    • For FDA to accelerate its proposed timelines for publishing final limits for toxic heavy metals and require baby food manufacturers to test their finished products, and

    • For industry to voluntarily adopt finished product testing, rather than attempt to control levels of heavy metals “based on inaccurate individual-ingredient tests,” and to use appropriate substitutes or phase out products that have high amounts of ingredients that frequently test high in toxic heavy metals, such as rice.


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