Environmental watchdog group warns of lead in baby food

  • Environmental watchdog group warns of lead in baby food

Environmental watchdog group warns of lead in baby food

Samantha Lovell '15, a policy major from Colby's Environmental Studies Program, coauthored a study by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) on lead levels in food supply. But a report published Thursday by the Environmental Defense Fund raises questions about another, surprising possibility: food.

Fruit juices, root vegetables and cookies were the baby foods most likely to contain lead. While the study is American, numerous same brands of baby food can be found in Canada. The FDA doesn't have any firm regulations on lead in other foods but limits lead in grape juices to 50 ppb.

Commenting on the findings of the report, a pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Dr. Aparna Bole said, "Lead can have a number of effects on children and it's especially harmful during critical windows of development". In children, even very low blood lead levels can cause behavioral problems and lower IQ.

Lead is highly toxic and there is no known safe level of it for anyone to eat, drink or breathe in, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

The FDA does not name the brands they test, or the stores where the products are bought.

EDF also found that more than 1 million children consume more lead than FDA's limit.

Caregivers can contact baby food brands and ask that their products be lead-free. CDC reiterated that foods rich in calcium, vitamin C, and iron could help stop lead absorption. Yet the Environmental Protection Agency this year has estimated that more than five percent of USA children (more than a million) get more than the FDA's recommended limit of lead from their diet.

Therefore, they considered it was pertinent to analyze the data of the FDA's Total Diet Study for specific sources of exposure to lead for babies and kids.

When parents think about the dangers of lead, it's paint and water that most come to mind as potential sources. "Baby food versions of apple and grape juices and carrots had more samples with detectable lead than the regular versions", the group said. She called for urgent action by policymakers to look more closely at the issue of lead in food. One suggestion to the FDA is that they update their limits and food safety guidance.

The levels in the foods were below what the FDA considers alarming, and the dose that a child gets depends on their overall diet and what other exposures they have. Additionally, the EDF suggests manufacturers conduct more frequent tests during the processing of foods.

Pediatrician Jennifer Lowry, who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics' Council on Environmental Health, stressed that the onus to change their standards regarding lead was on the FDA and industry.

For simplicity, the EDF sorted the baby foods into eight categories: root vegetables; non-root vegetables; fruits including juices; cereal; infant formula; prepared meals; crackers and cookies; and desserts.

"Avoiding all sources of exposure to lead poisoning is incredibly important ... but the last thing I would want is for a parent to restrict their child's diet or limit their intake of healthy food groups" said Bole.