January 26, 2023
FDA proposes limits for lead in baby food
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration took new steps Tuesday aimed at reducing young children’s exposure to lead in baby food.

The FDA issued a draft proposal limiting how much lead should be present in some processed baby foods typically eaten by children under 2 years old. Consumer groups and a congressional committee had raised concerns over the level of heavy metals found in some baby foods, alarming parents worried about the possible health effects.

The proposed limits range from 10 to 20 parts per billion, varying by the type of baby food, which include puréed fruits and vegetables in jars and pouches, yogurts and dry cereals.

The FDA’s latest proposal “will result in long-term, meaningful and sustainable reductions in the exposure to this contaminant from foods,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement. Mr. Califf said the agency estimates the new limits could reduce lead exposure by roughly 24% to 27% from the foods.

In 2021, a congressional investigation by the Democratic staff of the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy found “dangerously high levels” of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury in several top baby-food brands.

Baby-food makers have said that their foods don’t contain unsafe amounts of metals, but that they have been working on lowering their levels by changing suppliers and manufacturing methods.

Baby-food maker Beech-Nut said it was reviewing the FDA’s draft guidance and that it was committed to working with the agency.

Consumer Reports, a nonprofit organization that conducted its own research on the issue in 2018, said that while the new FDA lead limits were a good start, the agency should have gone further. In particular, the group said it was concerned that the FDA didn’t propose limits in grain-based snacks or “baby junk food,” such as puffs and wafers, which it said often contain the highest levels of lead.

The FDA has said it has concerns that exposure to lead and other toxic metals could hinder brain development in children, but the extent of the potential harm has been unclear. While it is likely impossible to remove all traces of the metals from food, manufacturers should be able to lower the level of lead below the recommended limits, the FDA said.

Fruits, vegetables and grains can absorb small amounts of lead and other metals from the soil, water or air as they grow. Sometimes the metals occur naturally, while at other times they are introduced through pollution.

Last year the FDA recommended limits on the levels of lead in juice and earlier took steps to limit inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal. The agency said it is continuing to work on developing recommendations around levels of arsenic, cadmium and mercury. (Source: The Wall Street Journal)
Story Date: January 25, 2023
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