Experts say the new report shows the need for further action to remove heavy metals from baby food.
Consumer Reports October 20 letters to executives at Gerber, Hain Celestial, Happy Family Organics, Plum Organics and Walmart urged companies to respond by November 5 to CR’s call to halt sales of rice grains for infants. “These companies should follow Beech-Nut’s lead and suspend the manufacture and sale of all infant rice cereals until a more protective health standard is in place,” said Ronholm of CR. “Even low levels of inorganic arsenic can have adverse effects on cognitive development in young children. Infant rice cereals are responsible for more than half of all inorganic arsenic exposures in infants and toddlers.
Data from the September report – “combined with the failure of companies to take preventative action to protect the most vulnerable consumers – the need for protective government limits on heavy metals in baby food,” Healthy Babies Bright Futures, a national alliance of scientists and children’s health advocacy organizations, said in a statement.
After the subcommittee released its first report on heavy metals in baby food, the FDA announced a plan to set limits on the levels allowed in baby food. While experts said any action was welcome, they criticized the plan’s timeline as being too slow. According to a plan called Closer to Zero, the FDA would propose limits for lead and arsenic in 2022, finalizing the lead limit by April 2024 and the arsenic limit sometime after. Limits on cadmium and mercury would not be proposed until at least April 2024.
In the new report, the subcommittee says the insufficient response to Alaska’s rice grain tests shows the need to take action sooner.
The FDA should update the timelines and issue earlier limits for acceptable levels of heavy metals in baby foods, the subcommittee recommended. The agency should also require companies to test finished products, not just ingredients, to get a better idea of heavy metal levels.
The FDA told CR in a statement that it was aware of today’s report and that it plans to review its findings. He pointed out that his Closer to Zero initiative was helping to reduce exposure to heavy metals and said he was working to finalize the action level for arsenic in apple juice (first proposed in 2013 ) and the development of action levels for lead in juices and other foods. A spokesperson for the agency also said: “While we understand that people may wish for rapid changes, it is crucial that measures to limit toxic elements in food do not have unintended consequences, such as limit access to foods that have important nutritional benefits by making them unavailable or unaffordable. for many families.
The industry could also help restore confidence by voluntarily adopting testing on finished products and phasing out ingredients that are frequently tested to be high in heavy metals, the report’s authors wrote.
CR experts agree and say this problem has persisted for too long without significant change.
“Given CR’s own tests and the numbers we see in the report, companies in the baby food industry are at a critical crossroads, especially when it comes to selling baby food based on. of rice, “said James Dickerson, scientific director of CR. “Either they must work diligently to reduce the amount of heavy metals present in rice-based baby foods through better sourcing and better pre-manufacturing analysis, better monitoring during manufacturing, and better analysis of rice-based baby foods.” packaging and packaging after manufacturing, or they must take steps to reduce the number of rice-based baby food products they sell to zero. The status quo is not tenable for caregivers or babies.