Arsenic in baby food is all too common, but there is a solution

Parents should be able to be confident that the food they’re giving their babies is healthy and safe, but unfortunately that’s not always the case.

Kids' health

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More than half of baby food samples tested in a recent FDA study had detectable levels of arsenic.

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More than half of baby food samples tested in a recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) study had detectable levels of arsenic.

While arsenic shouldn’t be in anyone’s food, it most certainly shouldn’t be in baby food. Yet, a congressional report in 2021 found that “100% of the Plum’s Super Puff rice-based products tested between 2017 and 2019 had extremely high levels of arsenic.”

And unfortunately, it’s not just arsenic: Dangerous levels of mercury and lead were also present in some of the products sold by major baby food brands. In fact, the FDA’s most recent Total Diet Study Report found that the highest levels of lead were in baby food sweet potatoes and teething biscuits.

Research has shown that heavy metals such as arsenic can impair the neurological development of babies and even lead to brain damage. Clearly, we need to do more to protect our babies and manufacturers are not doing adequate testing.

The 2021 congressional report revealed that many baby food manufacturers don’t adequately test their products for toxic heavy metals, and that some manufacturers didn’t stop selling the baby food even after it was known to contain them.

By only testing for singular ingredients, manufacturers are grossly underestimating the amount of heavy metals in their products. Manufacturers can get away with these questionable practices because the U.S. has virtually no standards on the maximum levels of toxic heavy metals allowed in baby food.

The answer? The Baby Food Safety Act of 2021.

The Baby Food Safety Act of 2021, which was introduced in Congress in March 2021, would require stricter testing and would limit the levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury in baby food. The act would also require all baby food manufacturers to be compliant with the updated standards within one year.

Additionally, the congressional report recommends that the baby food industry itself play a role in keeping babies safe from toxic heavy metal exposure by adopting a plan to phase out any and all products that have high amounts of the toxic metals.

Babies deserve better — take action today.


Teresa Murray

Consumer Watchdog, PIRG

Teresa directs the Consumer Watchdog office, which looks out for consumers’ health, safety and financial security. Previously, she worked as a journalist covering consumer issues and personal finance for two decades for Ohio’s largest daily newspaper. She received dozens of state and national journalism awards, including Best Columnist in Ohio, a National Headliner Award for coverage of the 2008-09 financial crisis, and a journalism public service award for exposing improper billing practices by Verizon that affected 15 million customers nationwide. Teresa and her husband live in Greater Cleveland and have two sons. She enjoys biking, house projects and music, and serves on her church missions team and stewardship board.

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