American parents spend billions of dollars on baby food every year, resulting in the baby food industry generating more than $13 billion annually. However, many baby food companies hide a grim reality: they allow dangerous concentrations of toxic metals, such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, in their products. In the winter of last year, a congressional report exposing four major baby food manufacturers was made public, and parents were, understandably, outraged.
The investigation, led by Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, was prompted by a 2019 study conducted by the non-profit organization Happy Babies Bright Futures. The study found that 95% of baby food on the market contains at least one heavy metal. Upon examining the four companies’ internal practices, the investigators found that the study results were appalling.
Shocking Discoveries Made by the Congressional Report
To fully comprehend the extent of sheer negligence and carelessness of these companies, you should keep in mind the safe limit for each of the four toxic metals. For arsenic, the limit is 10 ppb (parts per billion), cadmium 5 ppb, lead 5 ppb, and mercury 2 ppb. One of the companies, Hain Celestial Group, which manufactures products under the name Earth’s Best Organic, was found to allow ingredients with over 300 ppb arsenic in baby food. Another, Beech-Nut, was producing baby food with ingredients testing as high as 913 ppb arsenic.
Lead was found lurking in the ingredients of Beech-Nut in a concentration of more than 880 ppb, while in the ingredients of Hain Celestial Group, the level of lead exceeded 350 ppb. Gerber, another baby food company that manufactures products under the same name used ingredients containing up to 87 ppb cadmium, whereas Beech-Nut’s ingredients were found to contain 344 ppb cadmium. Alarmingly, the companies admitted to rarely testing for mercury or not testing for it.
How Exposure to Toxic Metals from Baby Food Can Lead to Autism
As toxic metals accumulate inside the body, they might eventually cause neurotoxicity, a process that affects the proper activity of the nervous system, including the brain. Neurotoxicity can disrupt or even kill neurons, essential cells that process and transmit signals in the brain and other regions of the nervous system. Children are especially vulnerable to experiencing the negative impact of toxic metals because they have a higher rate of nutrient uptake by the gastrointestinal tract and undeveloped detoxification systems.
Roughly 1 in 54 children born after 2008 in America will develop autism by the age of 5. The prevalence of this neurological disorder slightly rose over the last years, which might have something to do with toxic metals in the food parents feed their infants and toddlers. Many studies found that exposure to neurotoxins can result in alterations in the serotonergic system of children, which have been associated with autism. The serotonergic system refers to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that influences processes such as aggression, cognition, mood, learning, memory, and sleep, all of which are typically impaired in children with autism.
Luckily, You Can Lower Your Baby’s Intake of Toxic Metals
Although it is impossible to avoid toxic metals in baby food altogether, there are some ways to reduce your child’s intake of neurotoxins by choosing more ethical brands that test for heavy metals and by doing these simple and practical things like:
- Breastfeed for as long as possible: Over 80% of mothers in the United States breastfeed, which is good news, but fewer than a third keep doing it for one year, as is recommended. Therefore, to delay your baby’s need for canned and jarred food, you should breastfeed them for as long as possible.
- Feed your baby what you eat: For infants, it’s very easy to mash up vegetables, and for older babies it’s just as easy to mash up salmon, baked chicken…etc. Babies can eat the same food we eat as long as we are mindful of not feeding them unhealthy food or food too big for them to chew and swallow.
- Replace commercial baby food with alternatives for 80% less toxic metals content: You should replace rice puff snacks with rice-free snacks to reduce the heavy metals level by 93% and replace infant rice cereal with multi-grain and oatmeal to lower the level of toxic metals by 84%. Furthermore, you can replace teething biscuits with a frozen banana or chilled cucumber to lower the heavy metal content by 91% and replace carrots and sweet potatoes with a variety of other fruits and vegetables to lower the level of toxic metals by 73%.
- Minimize the rice intake of your toddler: When it is time to introduce solid foods to your child’s diet, you should feed them rice sparingly, as it is notorious for being high in arsenic. Rice contains 10 to 20 times more arsenic than other crops because it naturally grows in plenty of water. You can replace it with other equally nourishing cereals, such as oat, rye, sorghum, wheat, barley, quinoa, maize, and soy. When cooking rice for your toddler, make sure you rinse it multiple times and cook it in a lot of water.
- Feed your child only certain types of fish: Some fish contain tremendous mercury concentrations, so you want to avoid it. The fish with the greatest mercury level include king mackerel, marlin, tilefish, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, ahi tuna, and bigeye tuna. On the opposite end, the fish with the lowest mercury concentration is canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, catfish, salmon, trout, and herring.
About the Author
Having been part of the legal team of Environmental Litigation Group, P.C., for over 20 years, Jonathan Sharp has been the Chief Financial Officer at the law firm. Headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, the law firm specializes in toxic exposure. Jonathan Sharp is in charge of case evaluation, financial analysis, collecting and distributing the funds, client relations, and management of firm assets.