FDA Seeks To Address Concerns Over Toxic Metals In Baby Food
In the wake of a recent Congressional report that highlighted dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals in many popular baby foods, federal health officials are preparing to launch a series of regulatory actions, aimed at setting action levels for certain contaminants, as well as increasing facility inspections and product sampling.
The FDA issued a statement on March 5, announcing new initiatives aimed at reducing harmful chemicals from entering or developing in baby food products, as well as boosting compliance and enforcement actions.
The initiatives outlined in the release include a near term commitment to review the current action levels for contaminants in baby foods, and to continuously monitor those levels and lower them if appropriate. Determinations made from the review of action levels for contaminants will be provided to the industry with guidance on how to meet new obligations.
Under the plan, the FDA will begin working with government, academia, and stakeholders of the food industry to review and develop research to determine the allowable levels of harmful chemicals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury in baby food products.
The FDA also announced it will begin increasing inspections of food manufacturing facilities while boosting sampling and testing of foods for babies and young children. These tests and results will be made available to the public, according to the agency.
In addition to the initiatives outlined in the release, the FDA also issued a letter to baby and children food manufacturers on March 5, reminding them of their legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The letter reiterated that manufacturers have an existing responsibility to consider risks from chemical hazards which include toxic elements levels on final products.
“Our new activities will further efforts that the agency has continued to take in this area, including our work in 2020 to finalize an action level for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal. We’ll be working to develop additional action levels, finalize our draft guidance on reducing inorganic arsenic in apple juice and publish a draft guidance that will establish action levels for lead in juices,” the FDA statement, attributed to acting commissioner of Food and Drugs, Janet Woodcock, and Susan T. Mayne, director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, states. “These activities, along with an increase in sampling and reporting, will help continue to drive down levels of toxic elements in foods.”
The initiatives were announced on the heels of a House Oversight Committee report released on February 4, which highlighted internal documents and testing data indicating baby food products manufactured by Gerber (d/b/a Nestlé Nutrition), Beech-Nut Nutrition, Plum and others contain dangerous levels of heavy metals, which are toxic to infants and may result in permanent neurological damage.
Findings from the U.S. Congressional report indicated some baby foods contain more than 91 times the maximum level of arsenic allowed in bottled water; 177 times the allowable levels of lead, 69 times the limits on cadmium, and five times the levels of allowable mercury.
As a result of the report’s findings, a growing number of baby food lawsuits continue to be filed throughout the federal court system nationwide. Many of the complaints against the baby food manufacturers raise common allegations that the products were falsely advertised as safe for children, while containing harmful levels lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury.
The FDA and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have long maintained exposing infants and children to toxic heavy metals can cause a permanent decrease in IQ, an increased risk of future criminal and antisocial behavior, and untreatable and frequently permanent brain damage.
Heavy metal exposure to infants is a serious concern. Lead exposure at any level is extremely unsafe for children. Prior studies have linked heavy metal exposure to behavioral impairments, brain damage, damage to the nervous system, seizures, growth impairments, and even death. More oversight is needed to help protect infants from serious health side effect sand long-term health damage, the congressional report concluded.
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