Report Finds Baby Foods Have Heavy Metals Years After Concerns Over Autism Risks Emerged

Baby foods made with sweet potatoes and rice were of particular concern due to levels of lead absorbed from their growing soil

More than five years after concerns emerged about the risk of autism, ADHD and other long-term health problems from baby foods that have heavy metals, a new report suggests that there continue to be widespread issues with arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury in some of the most popular products on the market.

Consumer Reports released a report this week, which indicates that levels of the toxic heavy metals in some baby food products have decreased, but others have more heavy metals now than they did when researchers first tested the products.

The problems with baby foods having heavy metals were first highlighted by Consumer Reports in 2018. However, a subsequent report issued by a U.S. Congressional committee in 2021 sparked widespread outrage and concern among parents.

Despite calls from health experts and regulators for manufacturers to entirely remove the contaminants from their products, subsequent testing has found that toxic heavy metals in baby food remain a pervasive problem, with popular brands sold by Gerber, Plum Organics, Sprout, Walmart and others still having potentially dangerous levels.

Manufacturers of the products now face baby food autism lawsuits brought by families nationwide, involving claims that children have been left with long-term neurological side effects. However, it still appears that little progress has been made by the industry to eliminate the heavy metals entirely.

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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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Consumer Reports first conducted an independent study of which baby foods have heavy metals five years ago, in 2018, long before the Congressional report was published. At that time, the group found that 33 out of 50 baby food products had potential health risks due to the presence of arsenic, lead and cadmium.

In this latest test, Consumer Reports went back and retested 14 products, including seven baby food products which had “concerning levels” of the heavy metals. For three of those tested previously, the amount of heavy metals declined, while in three others, the levels increased. One product stayed the same.

“In some of the products, declines in certain heavy metals were offset by increases in others, so there was little change in the amount of the foods babies could eat,” James E. Rogers, Consumer Reports’ director of food safety research and testing, said in the report. “And we still found worrisome levels in foods that our last tests showed to be the most concerning, namely rice, sweet potatoes, and snack foods.”

Consumer Reports researchers tested the products for three heavy metals, then determined how many servings a child could safely eat per day based on the combined exposure risk to all three heavy metals.

In the findings, Consumer Reports found that while young children could eat several servings of some baby foods in a day without concern, there were others which had such high levels of toxic heavy metals that the researchers recommended parents and caregivers feed them less than one serving per day.

The researchers determined Beech-Nut naturals, sweet potato, and Gerber’s Chicken Rice Dinner, Sweet Potato Turkey with Whole Grains Dinner and Turkey Rice Dinner products were all rated as not safe enough for a baby to even eat half a serving per day.

Sweet Potato and Rice Baby Foods Heavy Metal Concerns

Consumer Reports researchers were particularly concerned with products containing rice and sweet potatoes, as well as snack food products. The fact that many snacks are made with rice puffs, and that parents often feed children well beyond the recommended serving size, was of particular concern to researchers.

The researchers also noted that, over the last five years, baby food manufacturers made progress in removing arsenic and cadmium, but the levels of lead increased in some of the same products.

According to the researchers, the problems are with how rice and sweet potatoes are grown. They absorb lead over time from the soil, and some industrial agricultural operations cause lead to build up in the soil, which then transfers to the crops and makes its way into the final products.

Consumer Reports recommends manufacturers grow in safer areas and use different growing strategies to reduce the levels of heavy metals in the soil for the crops to absorb.

July 2023 Baby Food Heavy Metals Lawsuits Update

Since early 2021, a series of baby food autism lawsuits and baby food ADHD lawsuits have been filed by parents claiming manufacturers marketed baby foods containing toxic substances as safe for infants and children without disclosing known metal contamination risks.

While plaintiffs previously sought to consolidate the growing number of baby food lawsuits being filed in various U.S. District Courts in to single multi-district litigation, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) denied the request, resulting in cases against various different manufacturers moving forward independently in a number of different jurisdictions nationiwde.

Product liability lawyers are continuing to investigate claims for children who are currently under the age of 15, and developed any of the following injuries after exposure to heavy metals in baby food for at least one year:

  • Autism diagnosed between ages of 2 and 14
  • Severe ADHD diagnosed between ages of 8 and 14


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