ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY (WSYR-TV) — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released new guidelines aimed at limiting lead concentrations in processed baby foods, making parents reconsider what food they are feeding their babies.

The FDA has been working to reduce the amount of lead and other environmental
contaminants in foods since the 1980’s, and in their new guidelines, the limit of lead part per billion (PPB) in baby food has changed.

The St. Lawrence County Public Health Department is bringing attention to this public health issue as lead is a poisoning problem that can be especially harmful to young children due to their small size, and developing brains.

The reason why lead is in so many products is because it’s a naturally occurring element that comes from the earth. That’s why fruits, vegetables, grains and more products that grow from the earth can absorb contaminants like lead the same way they absorb all their nutrients.

Therefore, it’s not possible to eliminate it entirely from the food supply, but it is possible to limit the amount of food you eat containing lead, even if it’s a low amount in PPB.

The most concerning issue with lead is that it can accumulate in the body, so over time, small amounts can add up.

The new FDA lead limits include the following:

  • 10 PPB in fruits, vegetables, and meats packaged in baby food jars, pouches, tubs, and boxes
  • 20 PPB for dry cereals
  • 20 PPB for root vegetables

If you’re wondering how to limit your baby’s exposure to lead, there are some things you can do to help.

The St. Lawrence County Public Health Department has made a list of helpful tips to reduce your baby’s lead exposure and recommends doing the following.

How to reduce your child’s exposure to lead and other toxic metals:

Serve a variety of foods

  • Providing a diverse diet can help provide an array of vitamins and nutrients that may offset the damage caused by lead.
  • Parents should focus on foods that are high in Iron, Calcium, & Vitamin C.
    • Iron can help protect against the harmful effects of lead and is found in eggs, peanut
      butter, whole grains and lean protein.
    • Calcium can make it more difficult for lead to be absorbed in the body and is found in
      dairy, dried fruits, and almonds.
    • Vitamin C helps the body better absorb iron & calcium and is found in fruits, peppers,
      and tomatoes.

Read food labels

  • Be sure to check the list of ingredients to ensure that baby foods offer the variety they claim. For example, many flavor blends often end up listing sweet potatoes as their first ingredient even though the packaging might advertise a kale/pear or spinach/pumpkin flavor.

Switch up grains

  • Rice cereals often contain higher levels of metals than other crops. Try incorporating oats, barley, couscous, quinoa, farro and multi-grain infant cereals.
  • Try to avoid foods with rice milk and brown rice syrup.

Avoid fruit juice

  • Offer young children fruit slices rather than fruit juice. Many fruit juices, particularly apple and grape, may contain high levels of heavy metals.

Have your water supply tested

  • Heavy metals can get into tap water. Test your well for contaminants every 3-5 years.
  • Pipes in older homes might contain lead. Have your water tested for free by contacting the Bureau of Water Supply Protection at 518-402-7650 or email

Address lead hazards in your home

Lead-based paint was banned in 1978. In St. Lawrence County, nearly 75% of our homes were built before this ban and as a result, many parents may be unaware that their homes contain lead hazards.

Keep your home lead-safe:

  • Fix areas with chipped & peeling paint.
  • Regularly clean floors, windowsills, and surfaces with a wet cloth or mop.
  • Use cold flushed tap water for mixing formula, drinking, or cooking.
  • Follow safe practices for removing lead-based paint or hire lead-safe contractors. Find local
    lead-safe renovators here.
  • If interested, register for a free lead-safe renovation course here.
  • Your home may be eligible for free home renovations to reduce lead hazards. Call the North Country Housing Council at 315-386-8576 to see if you qualify.
  • Don’t smoke or vape
  • Smoke from both regular and e-cigarettes may expose children to heavy metals, including lead