Sunday, June 18, 2017

Why Are There "Acceptable Levels" of Lead in Baby Food?

When we think about potential sources of lead exposure, we think about lead in water pipes or lead in chipping old paint.  No parent would ever think that a source of lead exposure could possibly be food... especially baby food. 

 However, a recent report published by the Environmental Defense Fund found just that:  about 20 percent of baby food samples tested over a decade-long period had detectable levels of lead.   


The Findings
After analyzing 11 years worth of FDA data, the EDF found:

  • - Lead was detected in 20% of baby food samples compared to 14% for other foods.
  • - Baby food versions of apple and grape juices and carrots had more samples with detectable lead than the regular versions.
  • - Eliminating lead in food would save society more than $27 billion annually in total lifetime earnings from saved IQ points.

The specific types of baby food that were found to contain the highest levels of lead were:

  • - fruit juices: 89% of grape juice samples contained detectable levels of lead, mixed fruit (67%), apple (55%), and pear (45%)
  • - Root vegetables: Sweet potatoes (86%) and carrots (43%)
  • - Teething biscuits and Cookies: Arrowroot cookies (64%) and teething biscuits (47%)

Additionally, the Environmental Defense Fund identified another FDA study, from September 2016,  where the FDA reported its lead and cadmium results for 407 samples of infant and toddler food ....  although the brands analyzed are not public information, the findings are worrisome and include baby cereal that, in the first study mentioned  were not found to be among the baby foods most commonly found to contain lead, and yet in this study all samples ( 100% ) contained detectable levels of lead:

Should I stop buying prepared baby food?

The data from both studies did not include specific brand names, so it is hard to tell which baby food brands contain lead and which did not.  

Additionally, the amount of lead found in the baby food samples did not  exceed the Food and Drug Administration's allowable levels of lead ; which means no laws were broken (although, the FDA is in the process of reviewing its standards, especially that for young children...).

doesn't "legally allowed limits of lead in (baby) food" 
sound TOTALLY wrong?  

Experts agree that there are no safe levels of lead, especially for young children.  Infants, due to their tiny body size, and their developing brains , in particular, are especially vulnerable to lead.  We know that even very low blood lead levels can cause behavioral problems and lower IQ.   This is why I think it should be a concern for parents that their baby food could be exposing their young children to lead... even if in minute amounts (after all, our babies eat various times a day; so these small amounts could add up in their tiny bodies).

While lead in baby food is not the main source of lead in children today, (the most common cause of lead poisoning today still actually comes from dust stemming from peeling or chipping paint that exposes old paint underneath which contains lead.  The lead migrates to household dust which children breathe in, or touch and then ingest, while in their own house or school. ) it still could be accumulating inside of our children.

Prepared baby food is a necessary convenience for many families, and most prepared baby food does not contain lead, so no need to stop buying this.  BUT good tips to keep in mind are: 

  1. when possible choose fresh organic vegetables and fruits cooked at home over store bought baby food, especially when choosing root vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots
  2. do not give your young children juice; not only could they potentially contain lead but they are full of sugar too.
  3.  If you live in a home built before 1978 your walls have lead.  Make sure you wall, windowsill and all painted surfaces indoors and outdoors are in good condition and make sure you keep dust at a minimum  since, as we mentioned before, lead exposure from paint is still the main contributor to lead poisoning in the US. 
  4. Although no one knows the source of the lead in the baby food, consumers have a lot of power with companies.  Call, email and support petitions asking companies to Set a goal of less than 1 ppb of lead in baby food and other foods marketed to young children;

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