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Heavy Metals and Baby Food

Heavy Metals and Baby Food

A recent national investigation revealed dangerously high levels of heavy metals found in shelf-stable baby food. Healthy Babies Bright Futures tested 168 types of baby food extending across 61 different brands and 13 types of baby food including rice and multi-grain cereal, teething biscuits and puffs, fruits, vegetables, meats, infant formula, and juices. Unfortunately 95% of all foods tested contained 1 or more heavy metals at higher levels than are accepted and what is even more alarming is that 1 in 4 baby foods contained all four of the toxic metals that were tested- arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.  Bottom line: the levels of heavy metals found in store-bought baby food continue to be beyond the minimum of what a child should safely consume.

The biggest concern is that even with trace amounts in the baby food, these toxic metals can alter the developing brain. Personally when I read the article, there was a section that really stood out and scared me greatly for our future children and population in general. The article reads:

“Widespread exposure to toxic heavy metals shifts the population-wide IQ curve down. It nudges more children into special education, and ratchets down the IQ of the most creative and intellectually gifted children. For an individual child, the harm appears to be permanent (e.g., Grandjean and Landrigan 2014, Wasserman 2007 and 2016, Hamadani 2011). Instead of overt poisoning, the low, daily exposures children face from heavy metals in food and other sources create “subclinical decrements in brain function” with impacts on a global scale.”

Therefore, the biggest question is what can we do as parents to avoid or try our best to provide healthy food for our babies. Things to consider when shopping:

  1. Avoid buying rice-based foods, including infant rice cereal and rice based snacks (Puff snacks and teething biscuits). Buy rice free snacks which have 93% less toxic metal levels on average. An alternative to rice cereal is infant oatmeal. I would also suggest purchasing only organic infant oatmeal, as oatmeal is very high in pesticides. For an alternative to teething biscuits opt for more soothing foods such as a frozen banana, chilled cucumber, or a wet washcloth.
  2. Avoid buying fruit juices, apple juice being the highest, grape next on the list. I would always encourage avoiding juice in general for other reasons (high in sugar) and encourage filtered water more than anything.
  3. Sweet potato and carrots are found to have higher levels are cadmium than other fruits and vegetables. So in moderation, they can be consumed however variety is important.
  4. Consider buying foods rich in calcium, vitamin c, and iron. These nutrients help block the absorption of heavy metals. Foods to consider would include broccoli, strawberries, kale, chia seeds, blueberries, and spinach.
  5. Consider making your own baby food from organic fresh produce. If this seems a bit daunting, then there are many companies that you can buy organic small-batch baby food from. The reason that I mention small-batch food is that typically this means it’s made by hand. It’s felt that metals are much more likely to seep into baby food when heavy machinery is used in the processing.

Here is the link to the entire article. I found it extremely informative and scary all at the same time. The best thing we can do as humans is inform ourselves and try to make better decisions!

https://www.healthybabyfood.org/sites/healthybabyfoods.org/files/2019-10/BabyFoodReport_FULLREPORT_ENGLISH_R5b.pdf

-Amanda Patchett, FNP-C