On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration issued a draft regulating allowable levels of lead in processed foods for infants and children younger than 2 years old.
The agency said the proposed action levels — which are not legally defined, but could lead to enforcement action from the Food and Drug Administration — would result in less lead exposure and potential health effects for infants and young children at ages whose brains are still developing.
“For infants and young children eating the foods covered in the current draft guidelines, the FDA estimates that these working levels could result in up to a 24-27% reduction in lead exposure from these foods.” Advertising.
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Wait, Is There Lead in Baby Food?
Previous studies have found levels of lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals in popular baby foods. A study for Healthy Babies Bright Futures tested 168 baby foods from 61 brands—among them Gerber, Up & Up, Parent’s Choice, Similac, and Enfamil—and found that 95% of the baby foods tested were contaminated with one or more heavy metals. toxic.
Michael Hansen, chief of staff at Consumer Reports, told a U.S. House subcommittee considering the issue in 2021 that lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury — metals deemed harmful by the Food and Drug Administration — can remain in the environment for decades from the use of pesticides and herbicides. herbs in the past. .
How much lead is allowed in processed baby food?
Processed foods covered by the draft proposal, titled Working Levels for Lead in Food for Babies and Young Children, include foods in jars, bags, tubs and boxes intended for infants and toddlers under two years of age.
Suggested work levels:
Fruits, vegetables, mixes, yogurt, custards/puddings, single-ingredient meats – 10 parts per billion (ppb).
Single Ingredient Root Vegetable Foods – 20 ppb for root vegetables (1 ingredient).
Dry infant cereal – 20 ppb.
FDA research found that many of the fruits, vegetables, and mixtures studied had lead levels around 1-3 ppb, but some had as high as 11.1 ppb. Single root plant foods were around 8.5, but it rose to 25.7 ppb. Dry infant cereal averaged about 8.3, with a high of 23 ppb.
The agency will receive public comment for 60 days before starting work on the final version of the proposal.
One of the food categories in which the agency decided not to address lead levels were cereal-based snacks including teething biscuits and rice-based pancakes. These have been analyzed but the FDA is seeking additional information about the levels of those foods, the proposal said.
These foods are high in lead and arsenic and also need acceptable levels, said Tom Neltner, senior director of Safer Chemicals at the Environmental Defense Fund. “Maybe they are not sure how much biscuit the child is actually eating, or that the contribution to the diet may be small,” he said.
As for the other levels, he supports the FDA’s work as the levels are lower than those set by Europe. “They are the most protected in the world,” Neltner said.
He said parents worried about lead in baby food face a dilemma because homemade baby food will also contain heavy metals.
“We think most sources (lead) are pollution, but there are ways to reduce it,” Niltner said. “These criteria are important to get us there. I think it’s progress.”