Beech-Nut issued a voluntary baby food recall and announced that it would stop selling its infant rice cereal because it contains arsenic levels exceeding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's maximum allowable limit.
On June 8, 2021, the FDA issued a recall announcement for Beech-Nut Stage 1, Single Grain Rice Cereal (UPC number 52200034705). The affected product has an expiration date of 01MAY2022 and product codes 103470XXXX and 093470XXXX. Consumers can check to see if their product is a part of the Beech-Nut recall by looking at the bottom of the Single Grain Rice Cereal container.
In August of 2020, the FDA set the maximum allowable limit for arsenic in infant rice cereal at 100 parts per billion (ppb). Routine batch testing on Beech-Nut Stage 1, Single Grain Rice Cereal tested above the FDA’s guidance level for arsenic. In a statement on its website, Beech-Nut announced that in addition to the recall, it would stop selling its baby rice cereal out of concern that it would not be able to source rice flour below the FDA limit.
Beech-Nut is one of the largest baby food companies in the U.S. The company describes its line of baby food products as “real food for babies.” It uses the words “natural,” “naturals,” “100% natural,” “organics,” “just sweet potatoes,” “nonGMO project verified,” and “nothing artificial added” in its advertising.
However, according to Healthy Babies Bright Futures, a consumer advocacy nonprofit, nearly all Beech-Nut baby food products contain high levels of toxic heavy metals. "To our knowledge, this is the first recall of infant rice cereal due to high arsenic levels," said Jane Houlihan, research director at Healthy Babies Bright Futures. "The FDA announcement of the recall is great news."
Consumer attorney Pedram Esfandiary, who represents parents in California and across the U.S. in lawsuits against Beech-Nut and other baby food companies, also applauds the recall announcement. “Infants and young children are far more susceptible to the harms of exposure to toxic metals than adults, so anything that keeps products high in arsenic like this off of shelves is positive,” Mr. Esfandiary says. “Nevertheless, the FDA’s maximum allowable level for arsenic that precipitated this recall is still far too high and needs to be lower.”
Can Purchasers Get a Refund on the Recalled Beech-Nut Baby Food?
People who purchased Beech-Nut Rice Cereal (UPC number 52200034705) with the expiration date of 01MAY2022 and product codes 103470XXXX and 093470XXXX are encouraged to visit http://www.beechnut.com/ricecereal, or call 1-866-272-9417 to obtain an exchange or refund for the purchase. Consumers should also discard the recalled product.
Arsenic in Baby Foods
High levels of arsenic in infant rice foods have been an issue for at least a decade. In 2011, Swedish scientists from the renowned Karolinska Institute noted that that “[h]igh levels of arsenic in [infant] rice-based foods are of concern.”
According to a 2021 government report, baby foods from several leading brands—including Beech-Nut—tested at significantly higher arsenic levels than the maximum limit for drinking water. The FDA set the maximum contaminant levels of arsenic in bottled water at 10 ppb. However, this limit was created in reference to adultexposure, not infants. Due to their small size, infants and babies are far more vulnerable to the health effects associated with exposure to arsenic, even in small amounts.
Beech-Nut is not the only company in the industry with foods testing near or above the FDA’s arsenic limit. For example, the government report found the following arsenic levels in foods from Gerber and Hain (Earth’s Best Organic):
- Gerber used five batches of rice flour that had 98 ppb arsenic, and 67 batches that contained more than 90 ppb or arsenic.
- Many of Hain’s baby foods were tainted with high levels of inorganic arsenic—half of its brown rice baby foods contained over 100 ppb arsenic. Hain’s rice flour tested at 309 ppb arsenic, its vitamin pre-mix tested at 223 ppb arsenic, and its raisin and wheat flour tested at 200 ppb arsenic.
It Isn’t Just Arsenic – Beech-Nut Foods Have Other Toxic Metals at High Levels
The high levels of arsenic in baby foods are not the only concern. Beech-Nut and other leading baby food companies routinely use ingredients with high levels of cadmium, lead, and mercury. These other metals are not subjected to the same maximum limits the FDA sets for arsenic in infant rice cereal, so baby food manufacturers are essentially left to set their own standards. According to the government baby food report, many companies set exceedingly internal limits for toxic metals only to flout them. Some, like Beech-Nut, do not even test for mercury, even though mercury has been found in previous baby food testing.
Additionally, the government report indicated that some of Beech-Nut’s baby foods contained several toxic heavy metals at high levels, which compounds the harmful effects resulting from each toxic heavy metal individually.
A 2016 study found that exposure to multiple heavy metals can have a synergistic effect on the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The finding is significant because children consuming certain baby foods are exposed to repeated, high doses of multiple heavy metals, thereby compounding the risk of ASD.
Beech-Nut Facing Attorney General Lawsuits in D.C. and New Mexico Over Heavy Metals in Foods
Beech-Nut has been named in two lawsuits filed by the attorneys general in Washington D.C. and New Mexico. Among other things, the lawsuits allege Beech-Nut made misrepresentations and/or omissions relating to the safety of its products. Both complaints seek restitution and other legal remedies for not warning consumers about the harmful levels of heavy metals in Beech-Nut baby foods.
Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed the complaint, in part, to deter Beech-Nut from “deceiving parents about products that actually jeopardize the health and safety of their children.” In a press release highlighting allegations against Beech-Nut, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas called the baby food manufacturer’s actions “unacceptable and outrageous.”
Beech-Nut Lawsuit – Parents with Children Who Have Autism or ADHD May Pursue Compensation
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman is a national law firm evaluating cases for parents with children diagnosed with autism or ADHD after regularly consuming baby foods from Beech-Nut and other manufacturers. Numerous studies have found that young children exposed to high levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury are at increased risk for developing ASD and ADHD. If you are interested in learning more about heavy metals in baby food, please read this Q&A with attorney Pedram Esfandiary.