Baby food products — including 80% of infant formulas — tested positive for arsenic, according to the findings from a new study released Wednesday.
The 530 baby products, purchased in the past five months, were all tested by the Clean Label Project, a nonprofit group that advocates for transparent labeling. Out of those, the study found that 65% contained arsenic, 36% had lead, 60% had BPA (industrial chemical bisphenol A) and 58% contained cadmium, a natural toxic metal typically found in plant soil and smoking products.
Some of the more popular brands that tested positive for these harmful ingredients, including Gerber, Enfamil, Plum Organics and Sprout, were the worst offenders, according to the study. The brands scored an alarming two out of five on Clean Label Project’s toxicity report card.
These chemicals can affect fine motor skill development and cognition in babies and infants, USA Today reported.
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“The baby industry needs to do a better job in protecting America’s most vulnerable population,” Clean Label Project’s executive director Jaclyn Bowen told the newspaper.
Arsenic was the most prevalent chemical found in the study, with almost 80% of formula samples testing positive. Rice-based baby foods like snack puffs had some of the highest levels of arsenic as well. The toxic element can lead to developmental defects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, diabetes and cancer, according to the World Health Organization.
“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,” FDA spokesperson Peter Cassell told USA Today.
While that may be true — rice can absorb arsenic from contaminated soil — the Food and Drug Administration proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion of arsenic in infant rice foods in 2016, but the limit isn’t being enforced. Some products in the study tested positive for up to 600 parts of arsenic per billion.
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And no amount of lead is safe — even low levels can cause low IQs, behavioral problems and hearing issues. In another recent study by the Environmental Defense Fund, the heavy metal was identified in 20% of baby foods. 89% of baby-marketed grape juices, 55% of apple juices and 86% of sweet potato baby food.
In a statement to the Daily News, Nestle, Gerber’s parent company, said that the report “may have caused unnecessary alarm about the safety of baby foods and infant formula.” The company said that it doesn’t “compromise on the quality of our formulas and foods for babies and toddlers,” and that “All Gerber foods meet or exceed U.S. government standards for quality and safety.”
A list of products tested by the Clean Label Product along with a star-rating for each can be found on the organization’s website.
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