Toxic, Heavy Metals In American Baby Food: What it is and what to do

For many parents, that little jar of baby food is sacred. When you open up a jar of peas, pears, rice cereal for your baby, you expect that to be the purest, safest food your child will ever eat. In the United States, a report from a US Congressional Committee has found that baby food is anything but. The report shows that many American baby foods are filled with toxic heavy metals.

The history of the report

  • “Oct. 17, 2019 -- Nearly all foods made for babies contain at least one toxic heavy metal that can harm brain development, according to a large new study that tested 13 different types of baby foods, including puffs, infant formula, teething biscuits, juices, cereals, and purees.”
  • “The study was conducted by a nonprofit called Healthy Babies Bright Futures. It tested 168 containers from 61 brands for the heavy metals arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. The foods were purchased at major retail stores across the U.S.” -

This excerpt from an article published by WebMD points to the study that prompted a Congressional committee to request information from many of the country's major manufacturers.

The latest news was prompted by the publication of the US House Oversight Committee report based on responses from several of the major US baby food manufacturers, including Gerber, Beech-Nut, HappyBABY, and Earth’s Best Organics.

Even more disturbing are the companies that refused to submit data. Walmart, with their in-house brand, Parent’s Choice, Plum Organics, and Sprout Foods, simply didn’t send any information in.

Why does it matter?

All of the heavy metals mentioned in the report are naturally occurring elements. They appear all over the world in miniscule amounts unless they're mined and used for industrial purposes. Once in soil from industrial activities, they can take decades to disappear.

Also, as many baby foods are made with rice and/or sweet potatoes, the situation can be even worse. Rice is grown in water, which can contain large quantities of heavy metals that then get into the plants. Sweet potatoes are grown underground, where they also get soaked by these heavy metals.

The effects on Babies

“Babies and toddlers are particularly vulnerable due to their smaller size and developing brains and organ systems,” says James E. Rogers, Ph.D., director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports. “They also absorb more of the heavy metals that get into their bodies than adults do.” - Consumer Reports.

There is a great deal of evidence that the long-term effects of heavy metals in children’s bodies can cause all sorts of issues, such as developmental and brain abnormalities, behavioral issues, decreased IQs, and decreased lifetime earnings.

What parents can do?

The short answer: Stop buying American baby foods and formulas.

Here’s one example why: “Although there are no maximum arsenic levels established for baby food (except for infant rice cereal, where the maximum is 100 parts per billion inorganic arsenic), the FDA has set the maximum allowable levels in bottled water at 10 ppb of inorganic arsenic.” - The Washington Post (emphasis added)

Read that closely: The FDA allows 10x more arsenic in infant rice cereal than it does bottled water for adults! And there are no guidelines for the rest of the baby food made in the US. In other words, unless you think you can trust manufacturers to do the right thing, you can’t expect anyone to be monitoring them. The US Federal Government hasn’t even established guidelines, let alone tried to enforce any sort of testing and protections.

The European Commission provides stricter guidelines for infant formula

For example, here is a contrast in guidance where pesticides, the source of many heavy metals, are concerned:

USDA on pesticides in infant formula:

“5.1 Pesticide Residues

The product shall be prepared with special care under good manufacturing practices so that residues of those pesticides which may be required in the production, storage or processing of the raw materials or the finished food ingredient do not remain, or, if technically unavoidable, are reduced to the maximum extent possible.” Emphasis added.

EU on pesticides in infant formula:

“It requires that infant formula and follow-on formula contain no detectable levels of pesticide residues, meaning not more than 0.01 milligrams of pesticide residues per kilogram. The Directive also prohibits the use of certain very toxic pesticides in the production of infant and follow-on formulae and establishes levels lower than the general maximum level of 0.01 milligrams per kilogram for a few other very toxic pesticides.” Emphasis added.

In other words, in the US, the answer is “do your best.” In the EU, it’s “there will not be any detectable traces.”

If you’re concerned about your baby getting heavy metals, pesticides, and other toxins, the European Commission has set exacting standards that don’t rely on the goodwill and care of companies that operate for a profit.

European formulas and baby foods, even the less expensive ones, must meet such strict standards that their bargain brands are generally better than American name brands.

Furthermore, participation in government examinations and testing is not optional. The idea that companies can simply ignore a request from Congress to provide data on the amount of heavy metals in the food that parents are feeding infants is unacceptable.

Choosing European Formula and Baby Food

The best way to ensure that you’re really getting the very best food for your baby is to purchase European organic baby formula and food that is organic. Not only are there very strict testing guidelines, but the farming practices are more sustainable, the animals are treated more humanely, and the end product is derived from nature, not a laboratory.

In the United States, there are few guidelines on baby food to protect babies from dangerous, even life-altering, additives. In fact, after the report came out of Congress, the FDA response could only be described as horribly lacking. It contained an assurance that they’re monitoring everything. It went on to say that these “naturally occurring” elements are found in the soil and can be hard to remove from the food supply. Somehow, the Europeans have found a way to do it.

Buy European baby formula and foods to protect your baby from heavy metals, pesticides, genetically modified foods, and other things that simply aren’t necessary.

Author: Laura
👋 Hey,  I'm a proud mother of two wonderful children. I've been working at OBF24 for 6 years as a formula expert and am part of the customer support team. I love being able to help customers find the perfect formula for their little ones and provide support with any questions they may have. Drop me a message ›