Most parents naturally assume that store-bought baby foods and formulas are well regulated and safe for their babies to consume. That may not be the case says a recent study released by the Clean Label Project. In fact, many of these products may contain high-levels of toxins, researchers said.
For the study, Clean Label Project, a non-profit which advocates for transparent labeling of products, looked at the top-selling formulas and baby food as well as emerging national brands based on Nielsen data. Of about 530 products that the researchers tested, 65 percent were found positive for arsenic, 58 percent for cadmium, 36 percent for lead, and 10 percent for acrylamide.
The highest toxin level found was arsenic. It is associated with cardiovascular conditions, developmental defects, diabetes, neurotoxicity, skin lesions, and even cancer, was present in nearly 80 percent of infant formulas. Rice-based baby food such as snack puffs, tend to have the highest levels of arsenic.
In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion of arsenic in infant rice cereal, but isn't enforcing that limit. Rice often absorbs arsenic from contaminated soil as it grows in the environment.
"It is important for consumers to understand that some contaminants, such as heavy metals like lead or arsenic, are in the environment and cannot simply be removed from food," said Peter Cassell, a FDA spokesperson.
BPA was also found, although many companies now advertise as PBA free. Sixty-percent were found positive for the industrial chemical bisphenol A.
Lead, known for its’ devastating impact on children’s health, was found in 36 percent of the products. Low levels of lead in children's blood have been connected to lower IQs, slowed growth, behavioral problems, hearing issues and anemia, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Gerber, Mead Johnson (Enfamil), Plum Organics all released statements following the study assuring customers their products adhere to strict safety standards. Gerber said its foods "meet or exceed U.S. government standards for quality and safety." Mead Johnson said it specifically monitors the presence of many materials, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, BPA and acrylamide to ensure "safety and high quality." Plum, who also stressed products are "completely safe," said over the past year, it's created "new, more robust guidelines for contaminants in our products" and is in the process of implementing those rules.
Jaclyn Bowen, executive director of Clean Label Project, said, "The baby industry needs to do a better job in protecting America’s most vulnerable population,"
The researchers found that mainstream brands, which include Enfamil, Gerber, Plum Organics, and Sprout, were among the worst offenders that scored two out of five in the report on toxic metals.
A more in-depth review of the study can be found on http://www.cleanlabelproject.org/product-ratings/infant-formula-baby-food/