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Statement: FDA plans to reduce toxic metal in baby food

Announcement comes one month after shocking congressional report
For immediate release

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Friday it will adopt a plan aimed at reducing toxic substances in food for babies and toddlers.

The announcement follows a report by a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee last month, which said four of the seven largest baby food manufacturers have sold baby food with “significant levels of toxic heavy metals” dating back to at least late 2019.

The FDA on Friday also issued a letter to manufacturers of food for babies and toddlers reminding them that they have a responsibility to make sure the food they produce is safe. The FDA’s soon-to-be-announced action plan will seek to reduce toxic substances such as arsenic, mercury, cadmium and lead to “levels as low as is reasonably achievable.” The FDA noted that exposure to toxic elements can cause brain damage in babies and young children. 

In response, Teresa Murray, U.S. PIRG Consumer Watchdog, issued the following statement:

“This is a great first step to protect babies and toddlers. But we need requirements, not just guidelines and suggestions. It’s absurd to have any toxic substances in baby food.

“When this report came out a month ago, it was shocking to learn there are few federal standards that limit toxic metals in baby food. Further, the manufacturers don’t have to disclose on the labels the levels of toxic substances. What parent wouldn’t want to know whether the food they’re putting in their child’s mouth is dangerous?

“There’s well-documented evidence that these types of toxic metals can cause permanent brain damage and harm a baby’s neurological development. Research also suggests these toxics also could be linked to future criminal and antisocial behavior. 

“The FDA said that based on its tests, children are not at an immediate health risk from exposure to toxic elements in foods, and it wants consumers to be ‘reassured’ that baby food manufacturers have a legal responsibility to make sure their products are safe. But for the public to be reassured, the FDA will need to adopt a plan with strict limits on toxics, and more inspections and transparency. We’re eager to see details of the FDA’s plans.”

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