Healthy Babies Bright Futures’ new study sought to find if homemade purees and foods purchased outside the baby food aisle have lower heavy metal levels than pre-made, store-bought baby food. To find the answer, HBBF tested 288 foods and examined 7,000+ additional food testing data from published studies.
We found no evidence to suggest that homemade baby food has lower heavy metal levels than store-bought brands. Heavy metal levels varied widely by food type, not by who made the food.
Our top findings were:
- 94% of all food samples we tested contained detectable amounts of toxic heavy metals: 94% of store-bought baby food, and 94% of homemade purees and family brand foods.
- Rice cakes and crisped rice cereal are heavily contaminated with arsenic. They contain higher levels of arsenic than any other foods tested. Both stand out as foods to avoid for children and adults alike.
- The 10 most heavily contaminated foods consumed by babies (beginning with the highest) are: rice cakes, crisped rice cereal, rice-based puffs, brown rice, teething biscuits and rice-based rusks, white rice, raisins, teething crackers (non-rice), granola bar with raisins, and oat-ring cereal.
- The 10 least contaminated foods consumed by babies, beginning with the lowest, are: banana, grits, baby food brand meats, butternut squash, lamb, apple, pork, eggs, oranges, and watermelon.
This is a complex problem and will require a multi-pronged solution for both our kitchens and our country.
The Kitchen Solution: Until foods with reliably low heavy metal levels are widely available, parents can choose and prepare foods in ways that significantly reduce babies’ exposures. The most important step: introduce and serve a variety of healthy foods, whether baby food brands or homemade foods. Serving the same food every day for a long time can accidentally concentrate one or more contaminants in a child’s diet. A varied diet avoids this and ensures a healthy mix of nutrients too. See our short parent’s guide for the full food list.
The Country Solution: FDA should establish and enforce protective limits for heavy metals in all foods consumed by babies and young children. Heavy metal contamination spans all the food aisles of the grocery store; FDA’s safety standards must as well. Standards extending beyond the baby food aisle would also encompass foods eaten during pregnancy , a crucial time for lowering toxic metal exposures.