More than sixty percent of baby food products tested by Consumer Reports were found to contain what the group labeled "worrisome" levels of heavy metals including mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and lead. The study found it made no difference whether or not products were organic; the risks and contamination levels seemed to transcend the organic label.
The study found rice-based foods were more likely to contain higher levels of heavy metals including arsenic and cadmium. Rice has been identified as a crop likely to absorb arsenic, which occurs naturally in soil, and can present serious health risks when consumed. Further, pesticide applications and other industry uses have seen higher-than-normal arsenic levels in soil and rice tests in recent years, pushing some health experts to issue warnings and suggested limitations on ingesting the staple food.
Consumer Reports tested 50 packaged baby and toddler food products. The group said popular baby food brands including Beech-Nut, Gerber, and organic baby food brand Earth's Best, all contained "concerning" levels of lead in several products. The samples exceeded lead limits set by the state of California. There are no federal limits for heavy metals in baby food.
The FDA responded to the findings saying that it would make good on its promise to finalize guidelines for arsenic in several key foods for babies and toddlers including apple juice and rice cereal. Another recent study found contaminants in 80 percent of the 530 infant products it tested, leading consumer groups to call for federally mandated safety levels.
The baby food market is significant; estimated at more than $53 billion, it's set to surpass $76 billion by 2021.
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