By Jackie Bowen
In February 2021, the results of a congressional investigation revealed levels of arsenic, lead and other toxic metals in many popular baby foods, including several organic brands. A U.S. House Subcommittee requested internal data from seven companies, including Walmart, Gerber, Beech-Nut, Earth’s Best Organics and Happy Family Organics. The documentation demonstrates worrisome levels of toxic metals in popular infant cereals, snack puffs and rice cakes – up to 91 times the arsenic level, 177 times the lead level, 69 times the cadmium level and five times the mercury levels established as acceptable by the Food and Drug Administation (FDA). This, as government, academics, and research outlets confirm and reference the short and long-term adverse health impacts that these toxins can have on the developing brain and immune system. The resulting parent and media backlash was swift and harsh with lawsuits, social media, and mainstream media outlets ablaze.
On March 25, Congress introduced the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 in an effort to minimize toxic metals in foods targeting America’s most vulnerable populations. Once the act comes into effect, baby food manufacturers will have to comply with the following thresholds:
Once enacted, the levels would be revisited every 3-5 years, and where necessary lowered by regulation.
Following the announcement of the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021, the FDA released its “Closer to Zero” plan-the aim of which is to reduce toxins in foods eaten by children to as low as possible. The FDA outlined the four stages it will follow over the next three year to implement it’s Closer to Zero approach:
If you are a baby food manufacturer or a supplier to the baby food industry, here are some tips that you can implement in anticipation of this new regulation:
View compliance with federal laws as your compass. View compliance with the court of public opinion as your true north. In the case of heavy metals found in baby food, your customer, America’s families, have spoken.
About the Author
Jaclyn Bowen MPH MS is a food safety and quality systems engineer and executive director of Clean Label Project, a national non-profit and certification organization with the mission to bring truth and transparency to food and consumer product labeling. Through data, science, and benchmarking, Clean Label Project uses retail sampling and testing to benchmark product quality and purity of America’s best selling food and consumer products and award Clean Label Project’s coveted evidence-based Purity Award.