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Manufacturers allowed baby food contaminated with heavy metals to remain on shelves, lawmakers say

Leeda.the.Paladin

Well-Known Member
A congressional subcommittee has found that baby food makers Gerber and Beech-Nut have not recalled products found to contain heavy metals, according to a report published Wednesday by the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy. Other producers, including Sprout Foods Inc., Walmart's Parent's Choice and Plum Organics, had insufficient and inaccurate testing, the subcommittee concluded.

The report calls out Beech-Nut for an incomplete recall of its infant rice cereal products that tested over the Food and Drug Administration's limit for inorganic arsenic. Gerber didn’t recall any of its products that tested over the limit, according to the report.

The FDA's standard for levels of inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal is 100 parts per billion. The committee found Beech-Nut rice cereal tested up to 125 parts per billion, and Gerber's rice cereal tested up to 116 parts per billion.


Heavy metals like arsenic, lead and cadmium can affect brain development in infants and small children, according to the American Academy on Pediatrics. They are found naturally in soil, water and air and are absorbed by plants.

The report is a continuing effort by lawmakers to address toxic heavy metals in baby foods. In late 2019, the subcommittee requested documents and test results from seven of the largest U.S. baby food manufacturers.

In a February report detailing its findings, the subcommittee said levels of heavy metals including arsenic, lead and mercury were higher than levels allowed under existing regulations for other products. The maximum level for inorganic arsenic in bottled water, for comparison, is 10 parts per billion. The subcommittee in February found Beech-Nut had used ingredients that tested as high as 913.4 parts per billion, and Gerber used batches of rice flour that tested over 90 parts per billion.

The subcommittee called on the FDA to set limits on heavy metals in baby foods and require mandatory testing and urged manufactures to voluntarily phase out ingredients containing toxic heavy metals.

Wednesday's report also found baby foods from Plum Organics, which was acquired by Sun-Maid Growers of California from Campbell in March, also contained lead and inorganic arsenic over the FDA’s limit. Almost 40% of samples from Plum Organics also tested above the FDA’s 5 parts per billion limit on cadmium.

Testing standards for heavy metals were also criticized in the report, which noted that most manufacturers tested individual ingredients rather than the finished product. It continued, noting Walmart’s move in 2018 to increase their inorganic arsenic limit from 23 parts per billion to 100 parts per billion. Sprout Foods, owned by Neptune Wellness Solutions, a Canadian cannabis company, only require ingredient manufacturers to test their products once a year, the report found.

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“Today’s report reveals that companies not only under-report the high levels of toxic content in their baby food, but also knowingly keep toxic products on the market. The facts speak for themselves, and the fact of the matter is that the baby food industry has consistently cut corners and put profit over the health of babies and children,” subcommittee chairman Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., said in a statement.

But the companies named in the report have pushed back, many pointing to the natural occurrence of heavy metals in the environment, a point the FDA made in its initial statement.

“In reality, because these elements occur in our air, water and soil, there are limits to how low these levels can be,” the FDA said in the statement. “It’s important to note that the FDA’s testing shows that children are not at an immediate health risk from exposure to toxic elements at the levels found in foods.”

Beech-Nut said the report's assertion that the company's recall was too narrow is "incorrect."

"In addition to recalling the affected lots, Beech-Nut also proactively withdrew all Beech-Nut branded Single Grain Rice Cereal products from supermarket shelves. Further, Beech-Nut decided to exit the market for its branded infant rice products because it is concerned about being able to consistently obtain rice flour well-below the FDA guidance level," Beech-Nut Nutrition said in an email to USA TODAY.

Other companies named in the report also pushed back, including Gerber and Walmart.

Gerber's rice cereal sample that tested above the FDA's limit for inorganic arsenic in June, which was referenced in the subcommittee's Wednesday report, was later retested by the FDA. They advised no action was needed, a Gerber spokesperson said.

"We have always required that our suppliers’ products meet the guidelines established by the FDA. Our specifications have always been aligned with or below the FDA requirements for naturally occurring elements," said Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesperson, in an email to USA TODAY. "We are encouraged the FDA launched a collaborative process to establish science-based standards for infant and baby foods and look forward to further guidance.”

Campbell, which sold Plum Organics in March, said it would continue cooperating with the subcommittee.

Sprout Foods, Inc. and Sun-Maid Growers of California could not be reached immediately for comment.

The subcommittee called on the FDA Wednesday to accelerate its timeline to establish limits on toxic heavy metals in baby food, an effort the FDA began in April after the subcommittee’s first report.
 

fluffyforever

Well-Known Member
Every time I see baby food recalls, I wonder why more people do not realize how unnecessary it is.
Recalls can be made for a variety of quality issues. I would think it is necessary to avoid giving a baby something harmful. I would rather know about the recall than not be warned at all.
 

yamilee21

Well-Known Member
Recalls can be made for a variety of quality issues. I would think it is necessary to avoid giving a baby something harmful. I would rather know about the recall than not be warned at all.
Not the recalls; the actual baby food. Babies do not actually need to eat a separate product designed just for 6-24 months. Things like rice cereal have almost no nutritional value; bananas are already soft and do not need to be puréed, soft cooked vegetables can be cut into very small pieces, etc. Not to mention the bizarre combination purées that no one would ever mix together for any other age.
 

Leeda.the.Paladin

Well-Known Member
This is why I intend to make my own baby foods from scratch and rely on family tradition.
I pureed food for all of mine. I did occasionally buy a few jars (prunes) but never used any of the brands listed.

it actually wasn’t that hard to do. I would do big batches, freeze what I wouldn’t use that week, and the rest would last for a few weeks.

I did oatmeal cereal a lot more than rice (I think I did rice some? That seems like forever ago!)
 

fluffyforever

Well-Known Member
Not the recalls; the actual baby food. Babies do not actually need to eat a separate product designed just for 6-24 months. Things like rice cereal have almost no nutritional value; bananas are already soft and do not need to be puréed, soft cooked vegetables can be cut into very small pieces, etc. Not to mention the bizarre combination purées that no one would ever mix together for any other age.
Oh definitely. I never understood that part either. I would think it’s cheaper and fresher to get some veggies and purree them in the long run.
 

naturalgyrl5199

Well-Known Member
This is why I intend to make my own baby foods from scratch and rely on family tradition.
You'll have to grow your own then.....Make sure you test the soil. Call your local Dept of Agriculture to come and test it. Or do Hydroponic growing and don't worry about soil at all.

Also make sure you use Heirloom seeds. Most of it is GMO or Hybrid.

USDA actually told organic farms to address this (in their initial response this year) because many organic baby foods had high levels in their products as well. Right now we have an ongoing issue with soil contamination in this country everywhere.

The companies pushing back are right that the levels are high due to no fault of their own--but its not a "natural occurrence" as they claim....its really that the US has a real soil contamination problem. But when people refuse to vote locally, or we don't demand to know where ppl stand on the environment, this is what you get.


Hydroponic growing brings great memories. We were playing around with this and being called crazy in grad school back in 2005-2007. It wasn't new then but not well known.... The technology is better now. You can order the raised columns on Amazon now.
 

naturalgyrl5199

Well-Known Member
Not the recalls; the actual baby food. Babies do not actually need to eat a separate product designed just for 6-24 months. Things like rice cereal have almost no nutritional value; bananas are already soft and do not need to be puréed, soft cooked vegetables can be cut into very small pieces, etc. Not to mention the bizarre combination purées that no one would ever mix together for any other age.
Oh definitely. I never understood that part either. I would think it’s cheaper and fresher to get some veggies and purree them in the long run.
The issue is economics and this wack society. As women moved into the workforce (think 1950's riiight when formula modernized and jarred baby food hit the scene), childrearing and childbearing was still expected full force at the same level.....

Working directly with families everyday who are low income and poor, (shoot the middle class as well) they barely have decent cooking and meal prep skills nor the time. We had been taught that all modern conveniences you can have to ensure you can work as much as possible is better. So the market adjusted. Less breastfeeding, more formula, more pouches, jars, syringe-like tools rather than real spoons to help teach feeding...sippy cups look like bottles, companies marketing processed crackers and snacks with powdered/processed veggie and fruit vs REAL food.....and on and on. I remember whining about companies eventually making formula for kids as old as 5 years old back in 2007....and here we are. Formula companies are now in the baby food business and vice versa. Jarred baby food is great on occasion or in Florida---part of you Disaster Preparedness Kit if you have infants. Its good for people who really don't have access to healthy food......but Now, even adults are being sold baby food-puree pouches with fruit and veggie purees in the guise of "superfood." Sick of it.

People are divesting now. More women are nursing, taking/demanding more time off to have ad raise kids, and more are looking into preparing food by hand/naturally
 

Rastafarai

Well-Known Member
You'll have to grow your own then.....Make sure you test the soil. Call your local Dept of Agriculture to come and test it. Or do Hydroponic growing and don't worry about soil at all.

Also make sure you use Heirloom seeds. Most of it is GMO or Hybrid.

USDA actually told organic farms to address this (in their initial response this year) because many organic baby foods had high levels in their products as well. Right now we have an ongoing issue with soil contamination in this country everywhere.

The companies pushing back are right that the levels are high due to no fault of their own--but its not a "natural occurrence" as they claim....its really that the US has a real soil contamination problem. But when people refuse to vote locally, or we don't demand to know where ppl stand on the environment, this is what you get.


Hydroponic growing brings great memories. We were playing around with this and being called crazy in grad school back in 2005-2007. It wasn't new then but not well known.... The technology is better now. You can order the raised columns on Amazon now.

We try and get my vegetables from back home (Caribbean) or imports from Africa. Still haven't conceived (yet!) but the plan is to leave the USA for Africa in the next two years.
 
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