The Food and Drug Administration plans to propose limits on arsenic, lead and mercury in baby food, with the agency taking action two months after a congressional report found products from some of the country’s biggest producers..
Although the FDA has established acceptable levels of inorganic arsenic in bottled water, it does not regulate metals in infant and toddler foods other than, starting last year, .
“We recognize that Americans want zero toxic elements in the food their babies and children eat. In fact, because these elements occur in our air, water, and soil, there are limits to how low these levels can be,” the agency said. stated. “Therefore, the goal of the FDA is to reduce levels arsenic, lead, cadmium and Mercury in this food as much as possible. “
Heavy metals enter fruits and vegetables from soil or water contaminated by sources including pesticides and fertilizers. Heavy metal exposure can harm both adults and children, but babies and toddlers are especially vulnerable because of their smaller size and developing brain. Exposure over time can result in neurodevelopmental disabilities including autism in children, say the experts.
The FDA intends to review science, establish a maximum acceptable level and monitor compliance of baby food makers, the agency said in breaking down the multi-year. strategy, which is called “Closer to Zero”. Regulators plan to set standards for maximum lead levels in baby food by April 2022 and for arsenic by April 2024, with a final lead on April 2024 followed by a decision on arsenic. The agency said it would collect and review cadmium and mercury data.
Toxin levels will be excluded as a guideline, and following these levels will be voluntary for the producer.
Call for stronger action
The FDA’s action won praise from advocacy groups including the Environmental Working Group, which called on the agency to take stronger and faster action on heavy metals.
“It’s great that the FDA is finally proposing to propose a metal limitation in baby food,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president of government affairs, in a statement. statement. “Setting a draft rate would send a strong signal to the food industry to do better. But proposing to apply is not the same as setting mandatory standards that baby food companies must meet. Parents don’t have to wait – and Congress shouldn’t wait, but instead – instead of setting an interim level in the law that companies must meet immediately. “
Gerber and other big baby food makers make up Baby Food Board by 2019 with the aim of reducing the levels of heavy metals in baby food “as low as possible”.
Gerber – the country’s largest producer of baby food – said in a statement that it welcomes the opportunity to work with the FDA to make “safer food supplies for infants and young children.”
The FDA’s move follows the recent introduction of the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 by Democratic Councilors King Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Tony Cárdenas of California, along with Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. That measure will require the FDA to set limits on infant cereals and other infant and toddler foods for cadmium, inorganic arsenic, lead and mercury.