FDA Guidance Calls for Action

Metals like cadmium and mercury often get into crops as the plants burrow into the ground, drawing in nutrients from contaminated soil or naturally occurring compounds. Here are some possible answers to how these heavy metals get into food, what growers can do to keep them out — and how parents can steer clear of tainted food.

Rain washes pollutants from factories, landfills, animal feed lots, or from roadway auto emissions into lakes, rivers, and streams. These pollutants can travel through groundwater or irrigation streams and contaminate crops or soil. Some of the metals occur naturally in the soil. Others can get added by certain fertilizers and insecticides.

As plants grow, some, like leafy greens, are particularly efficient at drawing in heavy metals and storing them in their leaves, roots, or fruit.

Beyond contamination because of absorption from the soil, heavy metals can also find their way into baby food through additives like fortified vitamin mixes.

Why Heavy Metal Intoxication in Foods a Concern For Babies?

Heavy metals are not healthy for adults, but they are particularly bad for babies. Infants and toddlers grow rapidly, developing key body systems and laying the foundation for lifelong cardiovascular, immune, and brain health.


Because they are far smaller than adults, a small dose of any toxin can be harmful. They may also be less efficient at metabolizing toxins than adults. Small amounts of lead, for instance, have been found to affect behavior, I.Q., and academic achievement (1 Trusted Source
A Narrative Review of Toxic Heavy Metal Content of Infant and Toddler Foods and Evaluation of United States Policy

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While some food companies monitor toxin levels, they are not required to report the results to the public or list them on product labels. The FDA has broad mandates that food makers ensure their products are safe, but there are few actual limits for specific toxins.

The FDA has set an “action limit” for inorganic arsenic in rice cereal marketed for babies and has proposed one for lead in juice. These limits — like those proposed for lead in baby food — do not set a strict bar.

Rather, they create guidelines for food makers to voluntarily follow. If the FDA finds that a company exceeds the levels, it can pursue enforcement action, which can lead to a product recall, seizure, or a recommendation for criminal prosecution.

How to Remove Heavy Metals from Baby Foods?

Washing produce will not help. But there are agricultural techniques that can reduce the levels seeping into crops. Farmers can test soil and use contaminated fields for crops that do not tend to pick up the metals, like beans.

They can also use fields with suboptimal soil to grow lavender or other crops that might not be eaten. Farmers are also trying to reduce toxins by growing crops such as sunflowers and poplar trees that are efficient at drawing impurities out of the soil and then disposing of the plants (2 Trusted Source
Closer to Zero: Reducing Childhood Exposure to Contaminants from Foods

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Agriculture experts are studying hundreds of varieties of plants that people eat to determine which are the least likely to harbor heavy metals.

Food companies should buy products for their baby food from regions with lower levels of contamination. It should also conduct testing before entering into contracts with farmers and test finished products to ensure that metals aren’t added during processing.


  1. A Narrative Review of Toxic Heavy Metal Content of Infant and Toddler Foods and Evaluation of United States Policy – (
  2. Closer to Zero: Reducing Childhood Exposure to Contaminants from Foods – (

Source: Medindia

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