Lawmakers Seek Limits on Toxic Metals in Baby Food and Improved Testing Standards

Three years after a Congressional report was released that identified high levels of toxic metals in baby food, manufacturers have failed to make their products safer for infants, legislators say

New legislation has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, which would task federal regulators with setting and enforcing scientifically supported limits on toxic metals in baby food, following the discovery that many popular brands continue to be sold with high levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury.

For years, there have been concerns about the sale of baby foods that contain heavy metals, which have been linked to a risk of autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other severe developmental problems for children.

Although a U.S. Congressional report was first released in 2021, identifying dangerous levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury found in a number of different popular baby foods, three years later reports suggest that toxic metals in baby food remain a pervasive problem in the United States.

To address the problems, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced The Baby Food Safety Act of 2024 (PDF) on May 9, and a companion bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA).

If passed into law, the legislation would grant increased authority to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate baby food products and set more stringent standards for those manufacturers when it comes to sampling and testing their products.

“Parents want what’s best for their children, and they deserve peace of mind knowing the food they purchase for their babies and toddlers is safe,” Klobuchar said in a May 9 press release. “This legislation will boost food safety standards and require more complete testing by manufacturers to prevent heavy metals from poisoning our kids.”

Manufacturers of products found to contain high levels of these heavy metals already face hundreds of toxic baby food lawsuits, involving similar allegations that children developed autism, ADHD and other side effects, and the scope of the litigation is expected to continue to expand in the coming years as more families discover heavy metals in baby food fed to their children may be the cause of life-long developmental problems.

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Baby Food Lawsuits

Toxic baby food sold by Gerber, Beech-Nut and other manufacturers contain dangerous levels of heavy metals, which may be the cause of autism and severe ADHD for children.

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Baby Food Safety Act

The proposed legislation would set standards for the presence of heavy metals and other potentially harmful contaminants, including maximum allowable limits for arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. It would also require the FDA to set and enforce standards for how baby food manufacturers are required to test and sample for those contaminants.

Krishnamoorthi was involved in the original report released in 2021, which raised alarms among many health experts. Most popular baby food manufacturers have acknowledged that they only periodically test their ingredients for quality control, but never actually test the final products for heavy metal concentrations before putting them on store shelves for infants.

“Even three years after the release of my groundbreaking report that found dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals in leading baby foods, those same neurotoxins are still present at levels that risk the health and well-being of our children,” Krishnamoorthi said in the press release. “My legislation will empower the FDA to set limits for the levels of lead, cadmium, mercury, and inorganic arsenic in baby food with meaningful deadlines, while mandating sampling, testing, and reporting requirements for baby food manufacturers.”

The legislation must pass through committees and then full floor votes in both chambers before it will go the U.S. president to sign into law.

May 2024 Baby Food Toxic Metal Lawsuits Update

Since the initial report, parents nationwide have filed dozens of baby food lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system in recent years. Given common questions of fact and law raised in the complaints, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation established a toxic metal baby food injury lawsuit MDL (multidistrict litigation) in April 2024, transferring claims filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide to Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley in the Northern District of California, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

Throughout the remainder of 2024, as a growing number of baby food lawsuits continue to be filed by parents of children diagnosed with autism, it is expected that Judge Corley will establish a “bellwether” program, where a small group of representative cases will be prepared for a series of early test trials, to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.

However, if the manufacturers fail to negotiate baby food toxic metals settlements during the MDL proceedings, or otherwise resolve the litigation, each individual claim may later be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for trial in the future.

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