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The FDA wants to reduce lead levels in baby foods

By Kara Morris, Healthday Reporter

(health day)

TUESDAY, Jan. 24, 2023 (HealthDay News) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed tighter restrictions on lead levels in baby food products.

The agency announced draft guidance for manufacturers that would lower allowable levels of lead in processed foods intended for infants and children two years of age and under.

The Food and Drug Administration said the change could reduce dietary exposure to lead, which can cause neurological and developmental damage.

“For more than 30 years, the FDA has been working to reduce exposure to lead and other environmental contaminants from foods. This work has led to significant reductions in lead exposure from foods since the mid-1980s,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Calif said in a press release of the agency.

“The levels of proposed actions announced today, along with our continued work with our state and federal partners, and with industry and farmers to identify mitigation strategies, will lead to long-term, meaningful, and sustainable reductions in exposure to this contaminant from foods,” he added.

Calef said the proposed limits could reduce lead exposure of children who eat these foods by as much as 24% to 27%.

The move is part of an ongoing push by the Food and Drug Administration to reduce exposure to lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury to the lowest possible levels in foods eaten by infants and young children — a program it calls Closer to Zero.

Tuesday’s proposal would apply to baby food sold in jars, bags, tubs and boxes.

The limits would be 10 parts per billion (ppb) for fruits and vegetables, with the exception of single-ingredient root vegetables. This limit also applies to grain mixtures, meats, yogurts, custards/puddings, and single-ingredient meats.

For single-ingredient root vegetables and dry grains, the suggested limit would be 20 ppb.

Work levels vary because foods have different levels of consumption and because some foods naturally absorb more lead from the environment in which they are grown.

The Food and Drug Administration has emphasized that the presence of a contaminant does not mean that the food is unsafe to eat.

It assesses the level of contaminants in food and exposure to determine if there are potential health risks. The agency said it is not possible to completely remove lead and other contaminants from the food supply.

“We expect that recommended action levels will result in manufacturers implementing agricultural and processing measures to reduce lead levels in their food products below suggested action levels, thereby reducing potential adverse effects associated with dietary lead exposure,” the FDA said in the statement. .

While action levels will not be binding, it is one of the factors the FDA will consider in implementation.

“The action levels in today’s draft guidance are not intended to guide consumers in making food choices,” said Susan Main, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

“To support a child’s growth and development, we recommend that parents and caregivers feed children a varied, nutrient-dense diet across and within the major food groups of vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and protein foods,” she said in the statement.

Main said this approach helps children get important nutrients and may reduce harmful effects from exposure to pollutants.

The FDA noted that it is committed to evaluating whether action levels should be lowered further, based on evolving science about the health effects and how lower limits can be achieved.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is examining more than 1,100 comments received in November 2021 at a public meeting about lowering levels of pollutants.

The agency plans to host a webinar to provide an overview of the draft guidance and answer questions, and will announce more details soon.

Source: US Food and Drug Administration press release, January 24, 2023

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