When you purchase baby food for your child, you expect it to be safe from toxins that could cause harm. This year, however, parents were shocked to learn that many popular baby foods found in their local supermarket contain arsenic at dangerously high levels. Studies have shown that consumption of arsenic at high levels can cause lifelong brain damage and neurodevelopmental disorders in children, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
At Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, concerned parents contact us daily wondering if their baby food is safe. The answer, unfortunately, is that foods from companies like Beech-Nut, Earth’s Best Organic, Nurture, Sprout Foods, Plum Organics, Walmart, and Gerber have arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury at levels that far exceed the safety thresholds set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for bottled water (unbelievably, this is the only current minimum set by these agencies as they have yet to set minimums in baby foods, and the bottled water limits are only for adult exposure). Worse, these same companies knowingly sell these products to unsuspecting parents.
Parents have a right to know which baby foods to avoid due to dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals. In this blog, we will list baby food brands, products, and ingredients that have tested at high levels of arsenic and other toxic metals. We hope it will help parents make a more informed choice the next time they are browsing the baby food aisle in their local supermarket.
Baby Food Brands With the Highest Levels of Toxic Heavy Metals
According to a report published by the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy and the Committee on Oversight and Reform, the following baby food brands contain the highest levels of toxic heavy metals:
- Nurture, Inc. (Nurture)
- Sells Happy Family Organics, including baby food products by the brand name HappyBABY
- Beech-Nut Nutrition Company (Beech-Nut)
- Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (Hain)
- Sells baby food products by the brand name Earth’s Best Organic
- Walmart Inc. (Walmart)
- Sells baby food products by the brand name Parent’s Choice
- Sprout Foods, Inc. (Sprout Organic Foods)
- Plum Organics
FDA Not Doing Enough to Reduce Arsenic in Baby Foods
The U.S. government is aware of how dangerous arsenic is for human consumption, which is why there are strict regulations regarding arsenic levels in drinking water. The FDA has set the maximum contaminant levels (MCL) of inorganic arsenic in bottled water at 10 ppb (parts-per-billion). However, this limit was created in reference to adult exposure, not infants. Compared to the FDA’s inorganic arsenic threshold for bottled water, the test results of baby foods and their ingredients in the government report are 91 times greater than permitted arsenic levels.
This may come as a shock to parents: the FDA does not have a comprehensive standard for arsenic in baby foods. Presently, the FDA only regulates arsenic in infant rice cereal at an astoundingly high maximum level of 100ppb. Other baby food products are unregulated.
Linda McCauley studies environmental health effects as Dean of the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University. According to Dr. McCauley, “[n]o level of exposure to these [heavy] metals has been shown to be safe in vulnerable infants.” She adds, “the major windows of developmental vulnerability occur during infancy and early childhood due to continuing brain development after birth.” In short, even small amounts of exposure to arsenic and other toxic metals can have devastating health outcomes for babies and children.
Baby Food Brands That Contain Arsenic
In response to government inquiries, tests conducted by Nurture (HappyBABY) revealed that the company chose to sell baby foods containing as much as 180 parts per billion (ppb) inorganic arsenic. Ppb is used to measure the concentration of a contaminant in soils, sediments, and water. 1 ppb equals 1 µg (microgram) of substance per kg of solid (µg/kg). For the average baby weighing approximately 3kg (between 6 and 7 lbs), the quantities of heavy metals in baby foods pose significant health risks.
More than a quarter of the products Nurture tested had more than 100 ppb inorganic arsenic. The company’s test results showed that a typical Nurture baby food product sold in stores contained 60 ppb inorganic arsenic.
Some of the Nurture baby food products listed in the baby food report that include high levels of arsenic include:
- Apple & Broccoli Puffs (Nurture’s highest arsenic product – 180ppb)
- Banana & Pumpkin Puffs
- Strawberry & Beet Puffs
- Kale & Spinach Puffs
- Purple Carrot & Blueberry Puffs
- Sweet Potato & Carrot Puffs
- Apple Rice Cakes
Hain (Earth’s Best Organic)
The government report on baby food revealed that Hain (Earth’s Best Organic) does not regularly test its finished baby food products for arsenic or other heavy metals. When it did, the company found that one of its finished products contained as much as 129 ppb inorganic arsenic.
Hain mainly tested the ingredients in their products rather than their finished products sold in stores. Some of the ingredients tested as high as 309 ppb arsenic.
The following Hain ingredients tested above 100 ppb arsenic:
- Organic Brown Rice Flour (Hain’s highest arsenic product 309 ppb)
- Vitamin Pre-Mix
- Organic Whole Raisins
- Organic Soft White Wheat Flour
- Organic Spelt Flour
- Organic Barley Malt Extract
- Organic Yellow Split Pea Powder
- Medium Grain Whole Rice
- Organic Brown Rice Flour
- Organic Butternut Squash Puree
- Organic Blueberry Puree
- Organic Cinnamon Powder
Like Hain, Beech-Nut does not test its finished baby food products for arsenic levels. Some ingredients used in Beech-Nut baby foods contained as much as 913.4 ppb arsenic, per the government report. The company regularly utilized additives with high levels of arsenic. Some of the additives, which were used to alter product traits such as “crumb softness,” tested more than 300 ppb arsenic.
In total, the report indicated that Beech-Nut used 45 different ingredients that contained over 100 ppb arsenic, including:
- BAN 800
- Alpha Amylase
- Sebamyl 100
- Organic Rice Flour
- Organic Cumin
- Organic Rice
- Rice Flour
- Vitamin Mix
This summer, Beech-Nut issued a baby food recall after state officials in Alaska found high levels of arsenic in Beech-Nut branded Single Grain Rice Cereal. The company also decided to leave the infant rice cereal market out of concern that the company would not be able to keep arsenic levels below the FDA guidance level.
According to the government report, Gerber routinely used flour that tested above 90 ppb arsenic. While the company did not submit arsenic testing results to the government for all of its ingredients, the baby food report noted that Gerber used five batches of rice flour that tested above 98 ppb arsenic, and 67 batches that contained more than 90 ppb arsenic.
Walmart (Parent’s Choice)
This summer, Walmart issued a baby food recall after three lots of Parent’s Choice Rice Baby Cereal (8 oz) tested at increased levels of arsenic.
The product lots of Parent’s Choice Rice Baby Cereal subject to recall:
Lot 21083 | UPC Code #00681131082907 | Best if Used by: JUN 24 2022
Lot 21084 | UPC Code #00681131082907 | Best if Used by: JUN 25 2022
Lot 21242 | UPC Code #00681131082907 | Best if Used by: NOV 30 2022
Earlier this year, the government subcommittee noted in its baby food report that Walmart failed to provide documents and information as requested on heavy metals in its foods. The report asked whether Walmart “might be obscuring the presence of even higher levels of toxic heavy metals in their baby food products than their competitors’ products.”
Walmart did provide documentation to the subcommittee for its second report. Walmart, the report noted, shows a “concerning lack of attention to toxic heavy metal levels in baby food and an abandonment of its previously more protective standards.”
How Toxic Heavy Metals Can Harm Your Baby for Life
When babies are exposed to toxins like arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury, long-term consequences can result, including:
- Permanent decreases in IQ
- Neurodevelopmental disorder
- Reduced future economic productivity
- Heightened risk of future criminal and antisocial behavior
What is Inorganic Arsenic?
The government report on baby foods, and other scientific studies on the dangers of arsenic, make use of the phrase “inorganic arsenic.” An organic arsenic compound where the arsenic molecule is attached to carbon, is not as toxic as inorganic arsenic. Organic arsenic is found in fish, shrimp, and other seafood.
Inorganic arsenic compounds, on the other hand, do not contain carbon, and are highly toxic. Inorganic arsenic is often an issue in rice cultivation. Baby food companies have said the problem with arsenic in rice is unavoidable. But this is not the case if the rice is sourced properly. For example, according to Dr. Joe Schwarcz, “California rice tends to be very low in arsenic.”
Infant Rice Cereal Contains the Highest Levels of Arsenic
Rice cereal is one of the main sources of arsenic exposure in babies. Research shows that when tested for arsenic, all infant rice cereals contain higher levels of the toxin than brands that sell non-rice and multi-grain cereals. In fact, about six times more arsenic is found in infant rice cereals than in other types of infant cereals.
Research largely indicates that arsenic levels are lower in infant cereals containing the following ingredients:
The Dangers of Consuming Arsenic
According to researchers at the University of Buffalo and in China, there is consistent evidence to support a connection between inorganic arsenic exposure during the first few years of life and a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Not only that but arsenic is also known to significantly impact brain development and cause deficiencies in cognitive function and behavioral performance in adolescents.
According to the study authors, “We believe it is in the best interest of policymakers and the public to reduce exposures to iAs [inorganic arsenic] and Pb [lead] among pregnant women and children. Further, our research supports the need for large perspective human studies with accurate measurement and determination of the long-term body burden of iAs and Pb exposures to assess the impact of iAs and Pb exposures on ASD risk.”
We’re Here to Help Impacted Families
If your child has developed autism or ADHD as a result of toxic heavy metals in baby foods, you may be eligible to pursue compensation in a toxic baby food lawsuit. The consumer attorneys at Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman represent hundreds of parents throughout the country in baby food cases. Our firm is no stranger to taking on large corporations. Across all areas of practice, we have won more than $4 billion in verdicts and settlements.
Call (855) 948-5098 or submit an online contact form today to get your free consultation with one of our skilled toxic baby food lawsuit attorneys.