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FDA puts lead limits for baby food; Critics believe more action has to be done!

The US Food and Drug Administration announced new draft recommendations on Tuesday, stating that the allowed lead limits in some foods for infants and toddlers should be kept to 20 parts per billion or less.

“For newborns and young children who consume the foods addressed in today’s draft advice, the FDA estimates that these action levels might result in a 24-27% decrease in lead exposure,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said in a statement.

Lead Limits For Baby Food

The FDA stated that the new proposal includes processed baby foods supplied in boxes, jars, pouches, and tubs for infants and toddlers less than 2 years old.

Jane Houlihan, national director of science and health for Healthy Kids Bright Futures, a coalition of advocates committed to decreasing babies’ exposures to neurotoxic chemicals, stated that while any action by the FDA is appreciated, the suggested levels of lead are not low enough to move the needle.

Houlihan, the author of a 2019 paper that identified unsafe levels of lead and other heavy metals in 95% of produced baby food, stated, Nearly all baby foods on the market already comply with what they’ve proposed.

This disclosure prompted a congressional investigation in 2021, which revealed that leading baby food producers marketed goods with high quantities of hazardous metals.

With these proposed lead levels, the FDA has not done enough to safeguard infants and young children from lead’s hazardous consequences. There is no known safe threshold of lead exposure, and children are especially susceptible, said Houlihan.

Brian Ronholm, head of food policy at Consumers Reports, also expressed alarm. Consumer Reports examined 50 infant meals in 2018 and discovered concerning levels of lead and other heavy metals. According to Consumer Reports, 15 of them would represent a risk to a child who consumed one serving or fewer every day.

Given the susceptibility of infants and toddlers to toxic exposure, the FDA should encourage the food sector to limit the presence of lead and other heavy metals in baby food, according to Ronholm.

The exposure of newborns and toddlers to toxic heavy metals might be detrimental to their growing brains. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it has been associated with learning, cognition, and behavioral issues.

The top 10 chemicals for newborns and kids, according to the World Health Organization, include lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury.

As natural ingredients, they cannot be avoided because they are present in the soil in which crops are cultivated. Some crop fields and localities contain higher levels of toxins than others, due in part to the excessive use of pesticides containing metals and persistent industrial pollution.

The new FDA guidance proposes custards, fruits, food mixes including grain- and meat-based puddings, vegetables, yogurts, and single-ingredient meats and vegetables contain no more than 10 parts per billion of lead.

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More Action Needs To Be Done

FDA-Health-Tech-Lifestyle-Family-US News
The US Food and Drug Administration announced new draft recommendations for lead limits in some foods for babies.

The exception to this limit is single-ingredient root vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, which according to the revised guidance should include no more than 20 parts per billion.

Prior to this revelation, the FDA had only established limits for heavy metals in newborn rice cereal, according to Houlihan.  Arsenic, which has been related to bad pregnancy outcomes and neurodevelopmental damage, will be restricted to 100 parts per billion by 2021.

According to Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental health organization, much more may be done.

What measures may parents take to reduce their children’s exposure to harmful metals? Unfortunately, buying organic or creating baby food at home would not address the problem, as conventional produce can also contain significant amounts of pollutants, according to experts.

In a 2022 study, Healthy Babies, Bright Futures found that store-bought family foods and handmade purees both contained 80% lead. Arsenic was present in 72% of the family’s meals, whether it was eaten out or cooked at home.

According to experts, the best strategy to reduce your child’s exposure to heavy metals is to consume a variety of meals on a daily basis, focusing on those with the least likelihood of contamination.

Based on their findings, Healthy Babies, and Bright Futures prepared a chart ranking foods from least to most contaminated. 

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