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What Heavy Metal Detection in Baby Food Means for You and Your Family
In February 2021, a House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy reported on internal documents obtained from four of the nation's most trusted baby food brands, HappyBABY, Gerber, Earth's Best, and Beech-Nut. While the concern over toxic baby food has been on the public's radar since at least 2016, the 2021 Subcommittee Report confirmed the public's worst fears. Alarming levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury are present in most baby food manufactured and sold in the US.
American consumers have a right to ensure the health and safety of their families. Yet, despite knowing the effects of heavy metals consumption on the developing brain, baby food manufacturers put profit over people and gambled with the lives of American families.
What Does the House Subcommittee Report Mean for Parents?
Numerous studies have analyzed the results of ingesting toxic metals and their effects on the developing brain. In fact, studies have found that the developing brain is unique in its vulnerability to toxicity.
According to a 2014 study by Philippe Grandjean and Philip J Landrigan, "the developing human brain is exceptionally sensitive to injury caused by toxic chemicals, and several developmental processes have been shown to be highly vulnerable to chemical toxicity." 1
So when we talk about a child's mind being a sponge, it's not far from the literal truth. An infant or toddler's brain is more likely to absorb the toxic metals found in food than an adult brain, and the consequences can be devastating.
According to the Subcommittee's findings, internal documents show that companies knew about the effects of heavy metals. Still, instead of implementing procedures to reduce the presence of toxic metals in their products, they tested the levels of individual ingredients. This method is a deceptive tactic that allowed these companies to report heavy metal levels that appeared to be within reasonable numbers.
What are Some Effects of Toxic Baby Food?
The 2021 House Subcommittee Report states that exposure to toxic heavy metals "causes permanent decreases in IQ, diminished future economic productivity, and increased risk of future criminal and antisocial behavior."2
Researchers have documented the effects of heavy metals on infant neurological development for years. Recent studies have linked exposure to arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury to lower IQs, learning disabilities, ADHD, and even autism.
While all the heavy metals in baby food can disrupt brain development, scientists link certain heavy metals to specific neurological disorders.
The Subcommittee Report noted the known health risk of consuming arsenic includes "damaging effects on the central nervous system and cognitive development in children." 2
The Subcommittee found that all manufacturers' internal company documents confirmed high levels of inorganic arsenic present in products tested by Gerber, Earth's Best, Beech-Nut, and HappyBABY. Despite this highly toxic metal, all companies approved products for consumer consumption.
Numerous studies document the effects of lead on developing brains, including impaired intelligence, lack of attention span, and behavior changes.
During their investigation, the Subcommittee found that Gerber, Earth's Best, HappyBABY, and Beech-Nut sold products containing unsafe levels of lead. 2
A 2012 study from Harvard found that children "who have higher urinary cadmium concentrations may have an increased risk of both LD [learning disabilities] and special education." 3
The Subcommittee reported that all four baby food manufacturers accepted foods with high cadmium levels and allowed those foods to hit the market for consumer purchase.
According to the Subcommittee's report, the FDA has previously acknowledged the harmful effects of mercury. The report emphasized the mercury's "added risk to babies and children," including blindness, seizures, brain damage, and inability to speak. 2
According to documents obtained during the committee's investigation, HappyBABY's internal threshold goal for mercury levels was 10 ppb, which according to the report, is "five times more than the EPA's 2 ppb standard for drinking water." 2
Some products sold by HappyBABY for consumer consumption contained as much as 10 ppb per product.
Is the Government Regulating Toxic Heavy Metals in Baby Food?
One of the most shocking details revealed in the report is the lack of government oversight of heavy metal levels in baby food produced in the US.
Companies are left to regulate themselves, and most have developed standards concerning acceptable toxin levels in baby food. However, the Subcommittee found that most companies failed to meet their internal standards.
While the FDA does not regulate or monitor toxic metal levels in baby food production, it does monitor the presence of these dangerous elements in drinking water.
The Subcommittee's investigation found that the internal threshold goal for all baby food manufacturers exceeded FDA standards for drinking water by as much as "91 times the arsenic level, up to 177 times the lead level, up to 69 times the cadmium level, and up to 5 times the mercury level." 2
There's a ray of hope in all this. In 2021, members of Congress introduced the Baby Food Safety Act, which would require government oversight of baby food production.
Still, while the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 might be the light at the end of the tunnel, it's little comfort to the families right now.
Congress is slow, and implementation is even slower.
For now, some experts have advised parents to stay away from infant and toddler products made with rice, including puff, infant cereal, and teething biscuits.
Where to Go from Here: Is a Lawsuit Right for Me?
Baby food manufacturers knew the risks of their products, but even today, they continue to stock grocery stores full of them with no warning labels.
There is no way for unsuspecting parents to know the risks of the seemingly innocuous product sitting in their pantries.
The lesson here is that these companies have no public safety concerns. Baby food manufacturers have proved time and time again that they cannot regulate themselves.
The only way to ensure real change is to hold these companies accountable for putting profit over people.
If you purchased baby food products and your child developed autism or ADHD, you may be entitled to compensation.
While we understand that a lawsuit will not reverse the damage caused by these negligible companies, it can help ease the financial and emotional burden.
Reach out to one of our attorneys today to understand your options. Get the legal help you need to take action and move forward by filing a lawsuit.
3. Ciesielski, Timothy, et. al. Cadmium exposure and neurodevelopmental outcomes in U.S. children. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2012; 120(5): 758. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22289429/. Accessed May 31, 2022.