FDA Action To Remove Toxic Metals from Baby Food Demanded by State Attorneys General
The ranking law enforcement officers in 22 states are calling for government regulators to “take swift action” to remove toxic metals from baby food, citing the unacceptable health risks to the most vulnerable members of the population.
Earlier this month, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel became one of the most recent attorneys general from a growing number of states to issue a letter to the heads of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), demanding that the agencies enforce existing limits and accelerate plans to eliminate heavy metals from baby food entirely.
Baby Food Toxic Metal Contamination
Over the past year, Gerber, Nurture and other manufacturers have faced a growing number of similar toxic baby food lawsuits brought by parents of children with autism or ADHD, following the release of a congressional report that found many popular products contain high levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury, which may cause severe health problems and developmental challenges for children.
The U.S. Congressional report highlighted internal documents and testing products for baby food sold by Gerber (doing business as Nestlé Nutrition), Nurture, Beech-Nut Nutrition, Hain Celestial Group, Campbell, Sprout Organic Foods and other widely used products, finding that some baby foods contain high levels of toxic metals, with 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.
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In late June, a group of attorneys general from across the U.S. sent a letter (PDF) to the heads of several government agencies, arguing that current regulatory actions have failed to adequately prioritize removal of toxic heavy metals from baby food, which the letter warns is a public health problem.
“No parent should have to worry about whether the food they serve their children is safe to eat,” New York Attorney General Letitia James. Said in a June 28 press release. “While our federal food safety watchdogs are working to implement critical long-term solutions, there are immediate, common-sense steps they can take that would begin to drive down the levels of toxic metals in baby foods. The FDA and USDA must act now — and give parents the peace of mind they deserve in the safety of the food they feed their children.”
“The elevated levels of these toxic chemicals in baby food needs urgent action,” Nessel said in a press release issued on July 6. “Right now, some of the most vulnerable of our population are facing unacceptable harm because manufacturers have been allowed to self-regulate the amount of lead and other toxic metals in their products.”
FDA Plans to Eliminate Toxic Metals from Baby Food
The attorneys general are calling for the FDA to accelerate its “Closer to Zero” plan, which it proposed in April 2021. The plan calls for the FDA to set new action levels for lead in baby food by April 2022, and action levels for inorganic arsenic, cadmium and mercury by April 2024.
However, the FDA failed to meet the April 2022 action level for lead in baby food, raising questions about the rest of its proposed timeline.
Originally, virtually the same coalition of attorneys general submitted a petition to the FDA in October 2021, calling for limits on the four toxic metals, but the FDA denied that petition. The coalition has asked the FDA to reconsider the petition, which calls for interim limits on lead, inorganic arsenic, cadmium and mercury in baby food; a lower limit on inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal than is currently set; and called for guidance for all baby food manufacturers on how to properly test their finished products for toxic heavy metals.
Although the manufacturers continue to maintain their baby food is safe and appropriately labeled, the FDA and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have long maintained that 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.
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