The attorneys general of Washington D.C. and New Mexico have filed lawsuits against Beech-Nut and other baby food companies alleging misrepresentations and/or omissions relating to the safety of their products. The lawsuits seek restitution and other legal remedies for not warning parents about the harmful levels of toxic heavy metals in certain baby food products.
In February, the United States House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy issued a report entitled ‘Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury.’ The shocking report found that Beech-Nut, Gerber, Happy Baby, and other major baby food brands knowingly sell products tainted with high levels of toxic metals.
Exposure to high levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, or mercury can cause neurological damage, including (among other issues):
- Permanent decreases in IQ
- Diminished future economic productivity
- Increased risk of future criminal and antisocial behavior in children
Increased risk of harming infant neurological development and long-term brain function
Studies have shown that infants and toddlers are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of heavy metals. Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have stated that heavy metals can cause severe and irreversible harm to the neurodevelopment of young children, even at low-level exposure.
Washington D.C. Files Lawsuit Against Beech-Nut
On April 21, 2021, Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a complaint accusing Beech-Nut of violating the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) by making false claims about the safety of its products. Specifically, the complaint alleges Beech-Nut made misrepresentations or omissions regarding:
- The safety of the company’s baby foods
- The presence of high levels of heavy metals in the company’s baby foods
- Its failure to test finished baby food products sold in stores for toxic metals instead of testing only individual baby food ingredients
- Its failure to test for mercury in some ingredients and products
- Its establishment of the highest internal standards for heavy metals in the baby food industry
- Its failure to adhere to its own internal standards in the production and sale of its baby foods
Attorney General Racine hopes the lawsuit will deter Beech-Nut and other baby food manufacturers from “deceiving parents about products that actually jeopardize the health and safety of their children.” The complaint also calls on the FDA to step up its efforts to enact and enforce heavy metals standards in the baby food industry.
The FDA does not presently have established standards for heavy metals in baby foods. The agency’s only regulatory standard is for infant rice cereal, which cannot exceed 100 parts per billion (ppb) of arsenic. Many consumer safety advocates believe this standard is far too high, as the FDA’s established maximum level for arsenic in drinking water is 10 ppb.
The FDA introduced the Closer to Zero action plan in April to address this important issue. But while the plan does create limits for maximum levels of heavy metals, the timeline for setting these limits for some of the metals remains vague. Critics of the plan say it does not make the substantive change needed to immediately protect the health of babies and young children.
New Mexico Files Baby Food Lawsuit Against Beech-Nut and Other Companies
On June 7, 2021, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Baldaras filed a lawsuit against baby food manufacturers and some retail chains for violating New Mexico’s Unfair Practices and False Advertising Acts and public nuisance statutes. Like the D.C. lawsuit, New Mexico accuses the defendants of negligence, failure to warn, and design/manufacturing defect.
The defendants named in the complaint include Beech-Nut, Nurture, Hain Celestial, Walmart, and Kroger. According to the complaint, the companies promoted and sold products contaminated with high levels of heavy metals as safe for babies and young children, a population that is vulnerable to serious adverse neurodevelopmental effects associated with heavy metals exposure.
Advertising and marketing materials for Beech-Nut and other companies maintain that they make safe and impurity-free baby foods. According to the complaint, promotional materials for the defendants state that their products are “rigorously tested,” and “made with love.”
But the government report released in February contradicts these statements. The testing results cited in the government report for certain baby foods and their ingredients far surpassed the maximum allowable levels in drinking water set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), FDA, and WHO.
Some baby foods and their ingredients tested at up to:
- 91 times more than the maximum allowable arsenic level for drinking water
- 177 times more than the maximum allowable lead level for drinking water
- 69 times more than the maximum allowable cadmium level for drinking water
- 5 times more than the maximum allowable mercury level for drinking water
“Any company that harms New Mexican children will be held accountable,” said Attorney General Hector Balderas in a press release. New Mexico has the worst child welfare outcomes in the nation, which makes the defendants’ actions all the more “unacceptable and outrageous,” Balderas said.
Attorneys Pursuing Baby Food Lawsuits for the Parents of Children with Autism and ADHD
Baby food lawyers from Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman represent parents throughout the nation in lawsuits alleging certain baby foods contain high levels of heavy metals that are positively associated with autism and ADHD. Numerous studies have concluded that babies exposed to high levels of inorganic arsenic, cadmium, lead, and/or mercury may be at increased risk for developing autism or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
If your child was diagnosed with autism and/or ADHD after regularly consuming baby foods from the following brands, you may be able to eligible for compensation in a lawsuit against the manufacturer(s):
- Campbell Soup (Plum Organics)
- Hain Celestial Group (Earth’s Best Organic)
- Nurture (Happy Family Organics and HappyBABY)
- Sprout Foods (Sprout Organic Food)
- Walmart (Parent’s Choice)