True Cellular Formulas Team - Feb 1, 2023
Are There toxins in Baby Food?
A shocking report found that over 95% of baby food sold on the shelves across America is contaminated with dangerous levels of lead and other heavy metals. Today we highlight the worst offenders and what you can do to protect your children from toxic baby food.
Heavy Metals Found in Popular Baby Food
A 2018 Consumer Report tested 50 baby foods. They found that 15 contained hazardous levels of lead and other heavy metals in quantities that could pose a risk to a child who ate only one serving per day. A follow-up report found dangerous levels of these same metals in over 95% of the 168 tested store-bought baby food.
As a result, a congressional investigation was launched in 2021, concluding that baby food manufacturers were underreporting their products’ high toxicity levels and knowingly selling them to them.3 The report, which the House Subcommittee headed on Economic and Consumer Policy, found contamination of various metals, including inorganic arsenic, lead, and cadmium. “Baby Foods” included food in jars and pouches, infant formulas, infant cereals, baby snack foods like puffs and teething biscuits, and juices.
The reports and subsequent recommendations made through FDA regulations and Consumer Reports led to various degrees of greenwashing but no genuine change. Some buyers and re-sellers of baby food, like Walmart, issued initial limits on arsenic in their baby food products, only to reverse the decision.1
Baby food companies and re-sellers should be more careful with testing or relying on the baby food companies themselves to report any toxicity levels. Walmart doesn’t test the products, while Sprout only tests its ingredients once yearly.1
Certain companies will recall products with high toxicity levels. Beech-Nut, for example, recalled Stage 1 Single Grain Cereals because they far exceeded the FDA’s limit of 100 ppm for inorganic arsenic; however, they failed to recall a wide range of other products that exceeded health regulation standards. Baby food company Gerber also was unable to recall toxic products.
The Story Behind the Contamination
Heavy metals are found across the globe and have permeated many parts of our natural world. They have made their way into our water and soil, from poor farming practices and manufacturing plants to poor processing standards.
How to Make Better Choices
Making your baby food at home is one alternative option because you know exactly what goes into your child’s food. Unfortunately, it’s not always enough, and studies of homemade baby food also typically test up for heavy metal contamination.7 It’s really about the quality of the foods used instead of just buying whole foods.
Understanding which foods are more important to buy organic can help parents make wiser decisions, even when the foods are free from traditionally problematic ingredients like preservatives or artificial colors and flavors. Unfortunately, the words “all-natural” are not enough in a world where nature has been heavily polluted. Some foods are more prone to absorbing heavy metals, while others are safer.
Riskier foods include rice, sweet potato, and grapes.8 Safer foods include bananas, apples, beans, peas, milk, and cheese. Somewhere between the safe and risker categories are peanut butter, fruit juice, oatmeal, and teething biscuits.9
Ditch the Rice
Rice is one of the most problematic ingredients in baby foods, so it gets its own subheading. It's grown in water, and arsenic is a natural element in soil, water, and air. Even low levels of arsenic can affect a baby’s neurodevelopment, and rice has the highest food concentrations.10-11
If you want to feed your baby rice, brown and wild rice are the worst offenders. Milling the rice removes the outer layers containing the highest arsenic concentrations. Organic rice doesn’t fix the problem either because the arsenic comes from the soil, not the use of pesticides. So if you want to include rice, go organic (for other reasons), opt for white rice, prepare it properly by soaking it first (for 24 hours) and use a pressure cooker for cooking it.
When it comes to nourishing your baby, rice may not be the best option. However, when we think of nutrient density, animal-based products are king, so consider reaching for egg yolks, beef, and bone broth instead!
The Naughty List
According to the report, sweet potatoes and carrots are excellent sources of vitamin A, but they are also high in lead and cadmium. Feed your child these veggies from the good list (below), but also make sure they eat a variety of other colorful fruits and vegetables.
Avoid feeding your baby these specific foods from each of these brands, due to measurable levels of toxic heavy metals:
- Earth's Best:
Chicken and Brown Rice Turkey
Red Beans & Brown Rice
Sweet Potatoes, 1st StageWhole Grain Oatmeal Cereal
Whole Grain Rice Cereal
Sunny Days Snack Bars, Strawberry
Chicken and Rice
Turkey and Rice
Lil' Meals White Turkey Stew With Rice & Vegetables
Carrot, Pear, and Blackberry
Carrots Peas & Corn With Lil' BitsSingle Grain Cereal
Organic Oatmeal Cereal
Gerber Graduates Arrowroot Cookies
Gerber Graduates Cinnamon Graham Animal Crackers
Gerber Graduates Banana Cookies
Gerber Graduates Waffle Wheels Puffed Grain Snack, Banana Cream
Gerber Graduates Lil' Biscuits Vanilla Wheat
Gerber Graduates Cereal Bars, Strawberry Banana
- Parent's Choice:
Little Puffs Cereal Snack, Strawberry Apple
- Sprout Organic:
Garden Vegetables Brown Rice With Turkey
Quinoa Puffs Baby Cereal Snack, Apple Kale
- Plum Organics:
Just Sweet Potato Organic Baby Food
Little Yums Organic Teething Wafers, Pumpkin & Banana
Mighty Sticks Whole Grain Snacks, Berry Beet
Beech-Nut Classics Sweet Potatoes
Beech-Nut Complete Rice Single Grain Baby Cereal
Organic Oatmeal Whole Grain Baby Cereal
Complete Oatmeal Whole Grain Baby Cereal
Quinoa Crispies, Vanilla
- Baby Mum Mum:
Banana Rice Rusks
Vegetable Rice Rusks
- Happy Baby Organics:
Organic Probiotic Baby Cereal
Superfood Puffs, Apple & Broccoli
Superfood Puffs, Purple Carrot & Blueberry
These specific food items measured lower levels of toxic heavy metals (consume in moderation)
Lil' Entrées Chicken & Brown Rice With Peas & Corn
Gerber Grabbers Strong Veggies, Broccoli, Carrot, Banana, Pineapple
Gerber Organic Peas, Carrots & Beets
Gerber Breakfast Buddies Hot Cereal With Real Fruit, Apple Cinnamon
Gerber Graduates Puffs Cereal Snack, Strawberry Apple
Lil' Beanies Baked Snack Made With Beans, White Cheddar & Broccoli
Lil' Crunchies Baked Corn Snack Mild Cheddar
Lil' Crunchies Baked Corn Snack Vanilla Maple
Organic Puffs, Puffed Grain Snack, Apple
- Beech Nut:
Beech-Nut Classics Apple, Pear & Banana
Beech-Nut Naturals Carrot, Broccoli, Apple & Strawberry
Beech-Nut Organic Just Apple & Green Beans
Beech-Nut Organic Peas, Green Beans, and Avocado
- Happy Baby Organics:
Purple Carrots, Bananas, Avocados & Quinoa
- Ella's Kitchen:
Apples + Strawberries Nibbly Fingers
The Good List (these baby food brands were safe)
- Once Upon a Farm
- Serenity Foods
- Fresh Bellies
- Tiny Human Food
Baby food companies have been on blast for knowingly selling products tainted with toxic chemicals like heavy metals. With over 95% of baby foods tested coming up toxic, advisory boards and recommendations have led to little to no changes. Protect your kids developing brains by avoiding the naughty list and either shopping the good list or making your baby food at home from mindfully selected organic ingredients.
- Hirsch, Jesse. “Heavy Metals in Baby Food: What You Need to Know.” Consumer Reports, www.consumerreports.org/food-safety/heavy-metals-in-baby-food-a6772370847/.
- LaMotte, Sandee. “FDA Proposes New Levels for Lead in Baby Food, but Critics Say More Action Is Needed.” KCRA, 25 Jan. 2023, www.kcra.com/article/lead-in-baby-food-fda-proposes-new-levels/42641995.
- Bair, Emily C. “A Narrative Review of Toxic Heavy Metal Content of Infant and Toddler Foods and Evaluation of United States Policy.” Frontiers in nutrition vol. 9 919913. 27 Jun. 2022, doi:10.3389/fnut.2022.919913
- Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Beech-Nut Nutrition Company Issues a Voluntary Recall of One Lot of Beech-Nut Single Grain Rice Cereal and Also Decides to Exit the Rice Cereal Segment.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, www.fda.gov/safety/recalls-market-withdrawals-safety-alerts/beech-nut-nutrition-company-issues-voluntary-recall-one-lot-beech-nut-single-grain-rice-cereal-and.
- Miller, Ronald V. “Gerber Baby Food Lawsuits.” Lawsuit Information Center, 9 Jan. 2023, www.lawsuit-information-center.com/gerber-baby-food-lawsuits.html.
- Zhao, H., Wu, Y., Lan, X. et al. Comprehensive assessment of harmful heavy metals in contaminated soil in order to score pollution level. Sci Rep 12, 3552 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-07602-9
- Crist, Carolyn. “Report: Homemade Baby Food Contains Toxic Metals, Too.” WebMD, WebMD, 12 Aug. 2022, www.webmd.com/children/news/20220812/homemade-baby-food-contains-toxic-metals.
- Loria, Kevin. “Baby Food and Heavy Metals: What Parents Should Do Now.” Consumer Reports, www.consumerreports.org/baby-food/baby-food-and-heavy-metals-advice-for-parents-a1523214531/#advice.
- “The Data-Driven Guide to Healthy Baby Food.” Reduce Babies’ Exposures to Toxic Heavy Metals in Their Diet, www.healthybabyfood.org/sites/healthybabyfoods.org/files/2022-08/BabyFoodTipSheet_ENG.pdf.
- Wasserman, Gail A et al. “Water arsenic exposure and children's intellectual function in Araihazar, Bangladesh.” Environmental health perspectives vol. 112,13 (2004): 1329-33. doi:10.1289/ehp.6964
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “FDA Statement on Testing and Analysis of Arsenic in Rice.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, www.fda.gov/food/environmental-contaminants-food/fda-statement-testing-and-analysis-arsenic-rice-and-rice-products.