This post is shared in collaboration with the Environmental Litigation Group. Read this article to learn more about toxic heavy metals that can be found in baby food. I was shocked to learn that even “organic” baby foods have toxic heavy metals in them. If you want to receive non-toxic baby food from ethical companies, all you need to do is fill out the form that is located at the bottom of this page to receive a free baby food replacement package for your child.
Toxic Heavy Metals in Baby Food Linked to Autism: How Parents Can Feed Their Children Safer Options
Adequate nutrition is vital during the first year of an infant’s development, and parents strive to provide the best options to ensure a healthy start in life for their children. Baby food companies hold a privileged position in the public’s trust for the easy access to products advertised as safe and nourishing.
The public’s confidence was irreparably shaken in early 2021 following a congressional investigation into alleged widespread heavy metal contamination. The following report highlighted the alarming concentrations of cadmium, mercury, lead, and inorganic arsenic in commercially-available baby food products. These metals have no safe exposure level and produce irreversible damage linked to neurologic disabilities.
The Concerning Extent of Heavy Metal Contamination in Baby Food
The investigation requested internal information on testing policies and standards for heavy metals in final products and ingredients from seven major US manufacturers. Gerber, Nurture, Beech-Nut, and Hain submitted the requested data, but Campbell, Sprout, and Walmart refused to cooperate.
The data collected from 4 of the 7 targeted companies was enough to spark outrage. Compared to FDA regulations that apply to other products, toxic heavy metal contaminants in baby food were multiple times higher.
- Mercury – 5 times higher
- Cadmium – 69 times higher
- Arsenic – 91 times higher
- Lead – 177 times higher
Infants are especially vulnerable to the pernicious effects of these harmful metals. Their higher nutrient absorption and less developed filtering systems lead to the bioaccumulation of toxic metals in tissues and bones, gradually acting as neurotoxins that affect the brain and nervous system.
The presence of these elements in infants’ diets constitutes a genuine toxic exposure risk, and ample clinical research indicates a high correlation with autism. One study that focused on twins to limit potentially interfering genetic factors noted that children with autism had higher concentrations of lead in their teeth than unaffected children.
In September 2021, an updated report including information from the formerly uncooperative companies showed that their products also contained unacceptable amounts of harmful metals. After these disclosures, the limited response and dismissive attitudes from the baby food industry garnered strong reactions from institutions, congress members, and two-dozen Attorneys General seeking to strengthen regulations and make final product reporting mandatory.
How Parents Can Limit Toxic Heavy Metal Exposure
Until stricter measures are imposed through institutional action, the self-regulating baby food industry will continue its questionable practices that endanger the long-term health of its intended consumer base.
Understandably, parents have been increasingly seeking solutions that limit their children’s dietary exposure to toxic heavy metals. A few common-sense and inexpensive approaches can help caregivers drastically reduce lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic counts in toddlers’ diets.
Breastfeed for At Least 1 Year
Pediatricians recommend exclusively breastfeeding infants for 6 months and continuing the practice for at least one year. However, data from the CDC indicates that only one-third of mothers continue breastfeeding for up to 12 months.
Besides the vital nutrients provided by mother’s milk, breastfed babies have a lower risk of developing chronic diseases like asthma, obesity, or type 2 diabetes and infections. Breastfeeding for up to 1 year limits the need for commercially-available baby food with high heavy metal counts.
Cut Back or Cut Out Rice
Though it’s considered a staple of infant nutrition, rice is a problematic ingredient that should be used sparingly. Due to its highly absorbent structure, rice takes up to 20 times more arsenic from its surrounding environment than other staple crops.
Parents should preferably use sushi and basmati rice as alternatives, preparing it with a lot of water and draining off the excess, or select other cereal crops with lower heavy metal concentrations like wheat, maize, rye, soy, or oats.
Choose Fish Carefully
When beginning to include solid foods in a baby’s diet, fish and seafood are options with highly nutritious benefits. However, some species have a higher concentration of mercury than others. Fish that parents should avoid include marlin, shark, ray, bigeye tuna, swordfish, orange roughy, and king mackerel.
Not all fish are high in mercury; safer species for infant consumption are pollock, herring, light canned tuna, salmon, trout, anchovy, and sardines. Seafood options like oysters, crawfish, shrimp, lobster, and scallops are also viable alternatives.
In 2019 Healthy Babies Bright Futures published a study indicating that 95% of tested baby food containers showed signs of at least one heavy metal contaminant. Consequently, the study recommends significantly substituting unhealthy products with safer alternatives to mitigate toxic metal concentrations.
Replacing rice-based infant cereals with multi-grain varieties like maize, barley, quinoa, or oatmeal can reduce arsenic counts by 84%; similarly, rice-free snacks contain 93% less cadmium, lead, and arsenic.
Teething biscuits should be replaced with chilled or frozen fruits and vegetables to reduce toxic heavy metals by 91% while preventing tooth decay. Replacing fruit juices with water reduces toxic metal exposure by 68% and lowers the high calorie count of their sugar contents.
A wider selection of fresh vegetables can help offset heavy metal intake from crops like sweet potatoes and carrots by 73%. It should be noted that the label “organic” doesn’t automatically mean that products are free of toxic metals, as they can be absorbed during the crop growing process from the resources used in their cultivation.
Parents still at odds with viable alternatives now can request replacements free of heavy metals thanks to the Toxic Baby Food Replacement Initiative, which sources products from ethical providers.
About the Author
Jonathan Sharp currently serves as CFO at Environmental Litigation Group, PC. The law firm from Birmingham, Alabama, specializes in toxic exposure cases and represents parents whose children have been diagnosed with autism after consuming tainted baby food products.