baby eating

Unleaded Babies: How government regulation and parent action can reduce children’s intake of toxic metals

Recently, the FDA proposed new guidelines to reduce children’s exposure to lead in processed baby foods. While environmental factors make it impossible to remove all traces of lead in our foods, the FDA estimates these lower levels could result in a 24 to 27% reduction in exposure to lead.

Many parents are unaware of the high levels of lead and other toxic metals in their children’s food products, particularly those that are highly processed. This is mostly due to agricultural and processing practices, which the FDA hopes will improve with these new rules.

A recent congressional investigation found levels of arsenic, lead and other toxic metals that can harm brain development in many popular baby foods, including organic brands. The investigation was prompted after a nonprofit called Healthy Babies Bright Futures published results of testing it did on baby foods in 2019.

Jane Houlihan, the national director of science and health for Healthy Babies Bright Futures, believes that the new guidelines are a good first step, but not nearly enough. She says, “The FDA hasn’t done enough with these proposed lead limits to protect babies and young children from lead’s harmful effects. There is no known safe level of lead exposure, and children are particularly vulnerable.”

While the FDA hopes the new guidelines will encourage change from manufacturers, pediatricians and health experts recommend that parents take steps to avoid exposing their young children to high levels of lead and heavy metals including avoiding highly processed foods, serving a variety of foods, and avoiding foods with the highest levels of contaminants, including rice products including rice cereal and cakes.

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