Wellness Wednesday: some baby food may contain high levels of heavy metals, congressional investigation finds

Wellness Wednesday

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Parents want the best for their kids and that starts with what they feed them. So, how safe is your baby’s food?

A recent congressional investigation found four major baby food companies, Nurture, Beech-Nut, Hain, and Gerber, sold food with high levels of heavy metals.

Syracuse General Pediatrician Dr. Wanda Averhart says parents should be concerned.

The FDA regulates the amount of heavy metals in foods, which Dr. Averhart says is fairly low, but it can accumulate overtime.

“Mercury, lead, arsenic,” she said, are a few of the metals found in some baby foods. A big one to watch for is arsenic, which has been reported to be found in rice cereals.

In August of 2020, the FDA set an action level of 100 parts per billion (ppb) inorganic arsenic for infant rice cereal.

So why do these healthy foods have such high levels of something so toxic overtime?

Heavy metals are in the soil, right? So if you’re eating fruits, vegetables that grow in the soil, it’s gonna have some of it in there. Also, as they’re being manufactured or processed, you can get metals added in that process or in that packaging.

Dr. Wanda Averhart

If your child is picky and they eat the same things every day, Dr. Averhart says that’s when it can become an issue.

“You can get cognitive issues, you can get developmental issues, behavior issues with kids.”

Dr. Wanda Averhart

A spokesperson with FDA says:

The organization will continue to test foods targeted to infants and young children as part of its toxic elements monitoring programs and take action when necessary.

On January 15, 2021, the FDA ordered Valley Processing, Inc. to stop distributing adulterated juice products containing potentially harmful levels of inorganic arsenic and patulin toxins, until the company complies with the requirements in the consent decree. The FDA has also worked with several manufacturers whose products contained elevated levels of toxic elements, to voluntarily remove them from the market.

Our scientists conduct research designed to help us better understand the problem and identify solutions.”

So, as the FDA works to tighten guidelines, what should parents be doing to better protect their kids?

Dr. Averhart suggests making sure your child is eating a variety of foods and food groups, so those metals don’t build up.

There are also some simple solutions you can try.

Instead of giving your child rice puffs to snack on, try whole fruit.

“We have this little mesh now that we use and put a piece of fruit, apple or orange in it, and he kind of gnaws on it and it gives him some juice.”

Dr. Wanda Averhart

You can also trade rice tethers for a chilled washcloth and try using multi-grain oats to thicken baby food instead of rice cereal.

“There are a lot of things you can do on a day-to-day basis to reduce the exposure,” she said.

Dr. Averhart says doctors can test for some metals. They test for lead twice before a child turns two. But most of these heavy metals don’t have a marker to follow.

Her advice: feed your child a variety of foods.

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