‘Alarming’ levels of toxic heavy metals detected in more baby food brands, government report says

WASHINGTON — Several high-profile baby food brands not only contain “high levels” of heavy metals but have also done little to address the issue, according to a new report released Wednesday by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy.

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The report, which described dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury and other toxins in the baby foods evaluated, comes eight months after a similar report identified the issue. The latest research indicated that few, if any, steps have been taken to remove those toxins, which can be particularly dangerous to developing babies and toddlers, from their manufacturing processes and final products, CBS News reported.

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Brands singled out in the latest report include Gerber, Plum Organics, Beech-Nut and Walmart, according to “Good Morning America.”

In addition to calling on the manufacturers to begin voluntarily testing their products for toxic heavy metals and to phase out products that contain large amounts of ingredients that test high in those substances, the report also called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to expedite the release of heavy metal standards for baby foods and to require companies to test their finished products for the contaminants, the outlet reported.

“Today’s report reveals that companies not only under-report the high levels of toxic content in their baby food, but also knowingly keep toxic products on the market,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, said in a prepared statement.

“The facts speak for themselves, and the fact of the matter is that the baby food industry has consistently cut corners and put profit over the health of babies and children,” Krishnamoorthi, who chairs the subcommittee, added.

According to CBS News, investigators determined that two of Gerber’s infant rice cereal products contained inorganic arsenic levels in excess of the FDA’s limit and also “failed to recall” those products. The report also revealed that a large percentage of Plum Organics’ products, including its popular Superpuff snacks, were found to contain heavy metals.

Meanwhile, Walmart in the eight months since the first report was released appears to have raised the amount of arsenic it allowed in its products, shifting from an “internal company standard of 23 parts per billion to the maximum allowed by the FDA of 100 parts per billion,” the network reported.

“No level of toxic heavy metals and exposure to them is safe for a baby,” Krishnamoorthi stated.

According to the report, congressional investigators determined after scouring test results and internal company documents obtained from seven of the nation’s largest baby food manufacturers that, in some cases, the products analyzed carried as much as 91 times the allowable arsenic level, 177 times the acceptable lead level, 69 times the allowable cadmium level and up to five times the acceptable mercury level, “GMA” reported.

Gerber told CBS News that it “follows a consistent and rigorous testing plan which includes regular testing of finished products” and increased testing “for products that have a history of naturally occurring level(s) of heavy metals.”

Meanwhile, Walmart told the network that it requires products to meet FDA guidelines, that its specifications have always been aligned “with or below … FDA requirements” and that it remains “committed to providing high quality … baby food products that are safe and nutritious.”

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