One in four baby foods contains all four toxic heavy metals assessed by our testing lab—arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. And 88 percent of baby foods we tested have no enforceable federal safety limit for arsenic, lead and other heavy metals.
Instead, leading baby food companies supported by non-profit organizations, including HBBF, formed a new Baby Food Council working to reduce the levels voluntarily.
Organic foods and homemade purees don’t solve the problem.
Heavy metals occur naturally in soil and water on farms worldwide. They are found at the highest levels in fields polluted by pesticides, contaminated fertilizer, and other sources. Store-bought, organic, and homemade foods are all contaminated.
But that doesn't mean that there's nothing parents can do to keep their little ones safe and healthy during mealtime.
Quick Tips for Parents
Parents shopping for baby food can choose five types of safer items, all readily available, over more contaminated foods. These safer choices contain 80 percent less arsenic, lead, and other toxic heavy metals, on average, than the riskier picks.
1. Snacks: Puffs and other snacks made with rice flour are high in arsenic. Choose rice-free snacks.
Try these healthy snacks with fewer contaminants recommended by Consumer Reports: apples, applesauce (unsweetened), bananas, barley with diced vegetables, beans, cheese, grapes (cut lengthwise), hard-boiled eggs, peaches, and yogurt.
2. Infant cereal: Infant rice cereal is the #1 source of arsenic in infant’s diets. Choose other cereals that are naturally low in arsenic, like oatmeal and multi-grain.
Infant rice cereal has six times more arsenic than other types of cereal. Safer choices include oatmeal, mixed grain, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, and wheat. Learn more [healthybabycereals.org]
3. Teething: Teething biscuits often contain arsenic, lead, and cadmium. They also lack nutrients and can cause tooth decay. Doctors and dentists recommend other solutions for baby teething pain.
Try a frozen banana, a peeled and chilled cucumber, or a clean, cold wet washcloth or spoon. Stay with your baby to watch for any choking.
4. Juice: Apple, pear, grape, and other fruit juices have lead and arsenic. Tap water, milk, and whole/pureed fruits are better choices for toddlers.
Serve whole or pureed fruits (like applesauce) instead of fruit juice, for more healthy fiber and nutrients. Doctors advise avoiding fruit juice altogether in a baby’s first year.
5. Fruits and veggies: Carrots and sweet potatoes are a great source of Vitamin A and other nutrients your baby needs. But they are also high in two toxic metals, lead, and cadmium. Variety is the solution.
Give your baby not only carrots and sweet potatoes, but plenty of other fruits & veggies during the week, for benefits without the excess risk.