Are Baby Foods Tainted With Dangerous Levels of Heavy Metals?

Review easy ways to reduce your child’s risk from heavy metals in baby food.

Why do some parents think that baby foods are tainted with dangerous levels of toxic metals?

A staff report from the US House of Representatives showed that "commercial baby foods are tainted with significant levels of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury."

It’s likely because they recently read articles and posts about a staff report from the US House of Representatives which showed that “commercial baby foods are tainted with significant levels of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.”

A report that was prompted by a study last year, What’s in my baby’s food?, that found 95% of baby food tested contained lead, arsenic, mercury or cadmium.

Are Baby Foods Tainted With Dangerous Levels of Heavy Metals?

Wait, what?

Commercial baby foods really are “tainted with significant levels of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury?”

Yes, it seems that they are.

As compared to the maximum allowable levels in bottled water that are set by the FDA, the latest report found that baby foods and their ingredients tested at up to 91 times the arsenic level, up to 177 times the lead level, up to 69 times the cadmium level, and up to 5 times the mercury level.

How has this happened?

“FDA HAS FAILED TO CONFRONT THE RISKS OF TOXIC HEAVY METALS IN BABY FOOD. THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IGNORED A SECRET INDUSTRY PRESENTATION ABOUT HIGHER AMOUNTS OF TOXIC HEAVY METALS IN FINISHED BABY FOODS.”

Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury

We have been hearing about arsenic in rice and baby food for nearly 10 15 years, so it is hard to make this a Trump problem…

“In the context of arsenic in baby food, there are only two FDA regulations for specific products—an unenforceable draft guidance issued in July 2013, but never finalized, recommending an action level of 10 ppb for inorganic arsenic in single-strength (ready to drink) apple juice, and an August 2020 final guidance, setting an action level for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereals at 100 ppb.”

Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury

How about we just look at it as a problem that needs to be fixed?

Do you want the FDA to add more regulations for baby foods, ensuring that they are all safe and free of heavy metals?

To understand why that wouldn’t be a quick fix, you have to understand how these baby foods likely became tainted with heavy metals. After all, it’s not like the baby food manufacturers are adding them as an ingredient…

The problem is that the rice, vegetables, and fruits that they use to make baby food are actually tainted with arsenic and other heavy metals!

“Step one to restoring that trust is for manufacturers to voluntarily and immediately reduce the levels of toxic heavy metals in their baby foods to as close to zero as possible. If that is impossible for foods containing certain ingredients, then those ingredients should not be included in baby foods.”

Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury

Yes, let’s hope that the companies stop making baby food that is contaminated with heavy metals and if they don’t, let’s set high FDA standards for baby food to make sure that they do.

Either way, we are going to need a food supply that isn’t tainted with heavy metals…

“On August 1, 2019, FDA received a secret slide presentation from Hain, the maker of Earth’s Best Organic baby food, which revealed that finished baby food products contain even higher levels of toxic heavy metals than estimates based on individual ingredient test results. One heavy metal in particular, inorganic arsenic, was repeatedly found to be present at 28-93% higher levels than estimated.”

Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury

And no, simply switching to organic foods isn’t the answer.

What Parents Should Know About Heavy Metals in Baby Foods

So what should parents do?

One obvious thing is to keep pressure on politicians and the companies that make baby food to fix this problem.

But that’s a long term fix…

Right now, you should understand that while baby foods do likely contain these heavy metals, it is not at toxic levels that will cause immediate harm.

And understand that many of the studies on exposure to heavy metals and risks for children were not necessarily specific to baby foods, but were often on general environmental exposure.

Children are exposed to heavy metals from many sources, including parents who smoke, lead in paint and water, and mercury in seafood, etc.
Children are exposed to heavy metals from many sources, including parents who smoke, lead in paint and water, and mercury in seafood, etc.

Still, you should work to decrease your child’s risk of exposure to heavy metals from food by:

  • avoiding apple juice, as like rice, apples can take up arsenic in the soil they are grown in, although keep in mind that infants shouldn’t be given any juice anyway
  • feeding your kids a variety of rices and grains, including oatmeal, barley, multi-grain rice, basmati rice, millet, and quinoa, etc. – remembering that iron-fortified cereals are a good source of iron, so typically shouldn’t be avoided all together
  • looking for rice-free baby snacks and limiting how many rice crackers and rice cakes your older kids eat
  • avoiding teething biscuits, as they are typically made with rice flour
  • offering your baby a variety of vegetables, understanding that carrots and sweet potatoes are often the ones that are most heavily contaminated with heavy metals, so continue to give since they are also high in nutrients, but mix in with a lot of other veggies
  • offering a variety of plant based milks if your older child has a milk allergy (giving breastmilk or an iron fortified infant formula until 12 months), so that they aren’t just drinking rice milk

What else can we do?

“Chemicals are part of our daily life. All living and inanimate matter is made up of chemicals and virtually every manufactured product involves the use of chemicals. Many chemicals can, when properly used, significantly contribute to the improvement of our quality of life, health and well-being. But other chemicals are highly hazardous and can negatively affect our health and environment when improperly managed.”

Action is Needed On Chemicals of Major Public Health Concern

We can focus on real risks, instead of the never ending parade of things that we might be told to worry about, from pesticide residues and sunscreen ingredients to vaccines and GMOs.

Instead of allowing yourself to be overwhelmed and scared of made up risks, focus on things that really might affect your kids, like this news about heavy metals in baby foods.

But even then, understand that the risk isn’t so high that you have to throw out of the jars of baby food you just bought and start making your own. Just give your child a good variety of foods, so that they don’t get too many of the same foods that might contain heavy metals.

And no, you don’t have get your kids tested for heavy metals if your main concern is exposure to heavy metals in baby food…

More on Heavy Metals in Baby Foods

How To Avoid Peanut Allergies

To prevent peanut allergies, parents of high risk kids are being told to go out of their way to be sure that they actually feed their infants peanut-containing foods!

Infants with eczema are at high risk for developing peanut allergies.
Infants with eczema are at high risk for developing peanut allergies. Photo courtesy of the NIAID.

The worst part of having a severe allergy to peanuts isn’t the high price of EpiPens.

It is that peanut allergies can be deadly, even when you have access to an EpiPen.

And since there is no 100% fool proof way to avoid peanuts and peanut containing foods, doctors have been trying to come up with ways to prevent kids from ever developing peanut allergies.

The first efforts, to avoid peanuts and other high risk foods during pregnancy and early infancy, likely backfired, leading to even more kids with peanut allergies. That’s why recommendations for starting solid foods changed back in 2008, when the American Academy of Pediatrics began to tell parents to no longer delay giving solid foods after age 4 to 6 months and that it wasn’t necessary to delay “the introduction of foods that are considered to be highly allergic, such as fish, eggs, and foods containing peanut protein.”

The latest guidelines are the next evolution of that older advice.

Now, in addition to simply not delaying introducing allergy type foods, as part of a new strategy to prevent peanut allergies, parents of high risk kids are being told to go out of their way to be sure that they actually give their infants peanut-containing foods!

Prevention of Peanut Allergies

Developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, with 25 professional organizations, federal agencies, and patient advocacy groups, these clinical practice guidelines recommend that parents:

  1. introduce peanut-containing foods into your infant’s diet as early as 4 to 6 months of age if they have severe eczema, egg allergy, or both (strongly consider allergy testing first)
  2. introduce peanut-containing foods into your infant’s diet around 6 months of age if they have mild to moderate eczema
  3. introduce peanut-containing foods into your infant’s diet in an age-appropriate manner with other solid foods if your infant has no eczema or any food allergy

Keep in mind that it is possible that your baby already has a peanut allergy, so discuss your plan to introduce peanut-containing foods with your pediatrician first. But don’t be in such a rush that you make peanut-containing foods your baby’s first food. Offer a cereal, veggie, fruit, or meat first. If tolerated, and you know that your baby is ready for solid food, and with your pediatricians okay, then consider moving to peanut-containing foods.

And although not always necessary, it is possible to do allergy testing even on younger infants. Testing is an especially good idea if your infant has severe eczema or an egg allergy. For these higher risk kids, referral to an allergy specialist might even be a good idea, where infants can start peanut containing foods in their office (supervised feeding) or as part of a graded oral challenge. Your pediatrician might also consider supervised feeding for your higher risk child who is not allergic to peanuts.

Peanut-Containing Baby Food Recipes

So how do you give a 4 or 6 month old peanut-containing foods?

It’s not like Gerber has any 1st or 2nd foods with peanuts – at least not yet…

So for now, you can:

  • add 2 to 3 tablespoons of hot water to 2 teaspoons of thinned, smooth peanut butter. Stir until the peanut butter dissolves and is well blended. You can feed it to your baby after it has cooled.
  • mix 2 to 3 tablespoons of a fruit or veggie that your baby is already tolerating in 2 teaspoons of thinned, smooth peanut butter.
  • mix 2 to 3 tablespoons of a fruit or veggie that your baby is already tolerating in 2 teaspoons of peanut flour or peanut butter powder.

Each of these recipes will provide your baby with about 2g of peanut protein. Since the goal is to give your child about 6 to 7g a week, you should offer them three separate times.

During the first feeding, it is important to only “offer your infant a small part of the peanut serving on the tip of the spoon,” and then wait for at least 10 minutes to make sure there are no signs of an allergic reaction, such as hives, face swelling, trouble breathing, or vomiting, etc.

Of course, because of the risk of choking, you should not give infants or toddlers whole peanuts or chunks of peanut butter.

More Information on Preventing Peanut Allergies