Removing heavy metal (No, not the music)

Removing heavy metal (No, not the music)

Baby food isn’t just sitting on store shelves. It’s now making its way to Congress. Lawmakers proposed a new bill that would limit the amount of heavy metals in baby food and cereals. The Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 comes after a House oversight subcommittee found “dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals” like inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury in some baby foods.

Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has limits on inorganic arsenic for rice cereals, but not other baby foods. The proposed bill would require all baby food to meet new standards within two years with guidance from the FDA. Manufacturers would also be required to test their final products – not just individual ingredients. In addition, it would require those results be posted online.

While food is not the only way babies and young children are exposed to these metals, it can contribute to their overall toxic metal exposure, which can have an impact on development.

“Children are still growing and developing. So, when there’s too much exposure as child it can have long-term implications,” explains Dr. Kevin Dahlman, medical director for Aurora Children’s Health in Wisconsin. “These heavy metals have been connected to issues with brain development and increased risk of behavioral and cognitive problems.”

Heavy metals are found naturally and everyone is exposed to them. They enter our environment through air, water and soil – all things needed to grow food. Those metals can also get into food through the manufacturing process and packaging. While these metals are virtually unavoidable, there are ways to limit a child’s exposure and consumption. Dr. Dahlman recommends limiting the amount of foods and other products which contain naturally high levels of inorganic arsenic and lead like apples, potatoes and rice.

“Rice cereal is often a child’s first solid food. It’s important to remember it’s not the only option,” said Dr. Dahlman. “Try including some other whole grains like oatmeal or quinoa into a child’s diet as well.”

Cutting down on baby snacks is a great option as well. Foods like teething biscuits and puffs have been found to have higher levels of metals. Fruit juice is another item that can have high levels of heavy metals but limiting juice intake actually goes beyond just metals exposure.

“Fruit juice can is simply not as nutritional as some think it is. It contains a lot of sugar and can contribute to cavities, weight gain and obesity,” Dr. Dahlman said.

If you ever have questions about your child’s diet or overall health, it’s important to contact their pediatrician.

Learn more about Aurora Children’s Health pediatricians

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About the Author

LeeAnn Betz
LeeAnn Betz

LeeAnn Betz, health enews contributor, is a media relations manager for Advocate Aurora Health. She is a former TV news executive producer with a background in investigations, consumer news and in-depth storytelling. Outside of work, she enjoys CrossFit, baking, finding a good cup of coffee and being a mom.