Healthy Baby Food
The chemicals found in baby food – arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury – are neurotoxins that can permanently alter the developing brain, erode IQ, and cause behavioral problems.
Our 2019 study found that 95% of baby foods tested were contaminated with toxic heavy metals, starting a national conversation about the need for urgent FDA action and sparking questions about homemade baby food as a safer alternative.
Questions about baby food safety continued when a 2021 Congressional investigation found baby foods to be tainted with “dangerous levels” of toxic heavy metals like lead and arsenic, giving parents one more reason to steer clear of the baby food aisle.
Even in the trace amounts found in food, these contaminants can alter the developing brain and erode a child’s IQ. The impacts add up with each meal or snack a baby eats.Our most recent study, designed to find out if DIY baby food avoids heavy metals, tested 288 foods and examined 7,000+ additional food testing data from published studies.
The troubling answer? Both were contaminated: 94% of both baby foods and homemade and “family” brands tested were contaminated with one or more of four toxic heavy metals. Heavy metal levels varied widely by food type, not by who made the food.
Report: Is Homemade Baby Food Better?
Six Tips to Reduce Babies’ Heavy Metals Exposures
Summary: Is Homemade Baby Food Better?
Letter to the FDA
Report: What's In My Baby's Food?
Summary: What's In My Baby's Food?
5 Safer Baby Foods - Parent Tip Sheets
Report: Arsenic in 9 Brands of Infant Cereal
8 Ways to Protect Your Family from Arsenic Contamination
What can be done?
The solution is a two-pronged “Kitchen and Country” approach. Until the FDA takes protective action on this issue, parents should choose and prepare foods in ways that significantly reduce babies’ exposures.
And the FDA should establish and enforce protective limits for heavy metals in all foods consumed by babies and young children — not just baby food brands but also fresh and family-style foods babies eat. Heavy metals contamination spans all the food aisles of the grocery store.
FDA’s multi-year timeline to limit lead, arsenic and other heavy metals in baby food has significant repercussions for infants. Nearly 10,000 babies in the U.S. begin eating solid food every day. Each day that passes has an impact, as children ingest metals that harm neurological development.
Learn more about each study below.
Research continues to confirm risks for babies from these exposures to heavy metals, including lifelong deficits in intelligence. Despite the risks, with few exceptions there are no specific limits for toxic heavy metals in baby food.
- Four popular foods consumed by babies are so heavily contaminated by heavy metals that we recommend avoiding them altogether.
- Fourteen foods have little contamination and can be served freely. Twenty-two foods have moderate to relatively high amounts of heavy metals, to be eaten rarely or in rotation with other foods. For some of these foods, preparation matters — peeling and cooking can lower the heavy metal content.
- Twenty-two foods have moderate to relatively high amounts of heavy metals, to be eaten rarely or in rotation with other foods. For some of these foods, preparation matters — peeling and cooking can lower the heavy metal content.
Read the report here.
We found toxic heavy metals in 95% of foods tested. One in four baby foods contained all four metals assessed by our testing lab: arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.
These four harmful metals are found in all food – not just baby food. Crops absorb them from soil and water, and they are even found in organic food. Their presence in baby food raises unique concern, because babies are more sensitive to the toxic impacts.
Some popular baby foods have higher levels, like rice-based snacks, juice, and sweet potatoes. Parents can make five safer baby food choices for 80% less toxic metal residue.
Our 2017 study found 6 times more arsenic in infant rice cereal than in other infant cereals. What it means for babies’ health: Arsenic causes cancer and permanently reduces children’s learning ability. Rice cereal is babies’ top source of arsenic exposure.
Rice readily absorbs arsenic from the environment, about 10 times more of it than other grains. Our study found arsenic in all brands of infant rice cereal tested, and lower levels in all brands of non-rice and multi-grain cereals.
Read the report here.