My children are long past the baby food stage, but I was still concerned to read that the House Oversight and Reform's Economic and Consumer Policy subcommitte reported that some U.S. baby foods likely contain high levels of toxic heavy metals. The subcommittee stated that "commercial baby foods are tainted with significant levels of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury" based on both internal manufacturer documents as well as test results showing concentrations of toxic heavy metals far above acceptable FDA standards for bottled water.
The report further states that some of the baby food manufacturers in the report had internal standards that "permit dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals," which ultimately underscores a lack of stringent FDA guidance. Currently, baby foods aren't required to carry any warning labeling, and a significant portion of baby foods currently aren't required to be tested whatsoever.
Among the report's recommendations is the establishment of FDA standards for maximum allowable levels of toxic heavy metals. Currently, the only standard in place is a 100 parts per billion threshold for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal, leaving a number of both baby food categories and potentially harmful metals unregulated. The Subcommittee also believes the FDA should mandate both testing and labeling in order to make baby foods safer.
While regulations would be helpful to protect baby food, heavy metals appear in our food also. These contaminants are found throughout the food supply. Some crops pulled from the ground show signs of heavy metal contamination due to chemicals, pollutants, and other unnatural occurrences.
While we all want to avoid heavy metals and chemicals in our foods, it is particularly important that babies not be exposed to such pollutants. "[An infant's] brain is forming rapidly, and so when they're exposed to metals that can interrupt those natural processes, the impacts range from behavioral problems to aggression to IQ loss and all kinds of cognitive and behavioral deficits that can persist throughout life," says Jane Houlihan, national director of science and health for Healthy Babies Bright Futures.
Parents who want to provide safe baby food for their children should look for organic baby foods or make their own using organic fruits and vegetables.
MY TAKE AWAY
I tend to take a pretty relaxed view about things - but I just finished a compelling book called The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. It is the history of a group of young women in New Jersey and Illinois who painted watch dials using radium paint beginning around 1917. They suffered radium poisoning and many of the young women died because no one initially appreciated the toxicity of radium in paint. Someone yesterday mentioned to me that her brother died from cancer as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. In fact there are lots of carcinogens in our environment that we do not appreciate. I think I will start buying more organic fruits and vegetables. What about you?