Spotlight on America, an award-winning investigative journalism series, issued a report last week detailing Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman’s “groundbreaking” baby food lawsuit against Gerber, Beech-Nut, Walmart, and other major manufacturers. Filed last September by attorneys Pedram Esfandiary and R. Brent Wisner, the first-of-its-kind lawsuit accuses seven companies of knowingly selling baby foods containing heavy metals linked to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.
Our firm represents a California child, Noah Cantabrana, in his case against the following baby food manufacturers:
- Nurture (Happy Baby)
- Hain (Earth's Best Organic)
- Parent's Choice (Walmart)
- Plum Organics
- Sprout Organic Foods
Noah’s mother, Melissa, alleges her son developed ASD and ADHD after consuming substantial quantities of heavy metals in baby food products from the companies listed above. She connected her son’s diagnosis to the foods he ate after reading a 2021 government report, "Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury,” issued by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy.
The shocking report on baby food found that products from the seven baby food companies contained up to 91 times more than the acceptable level of arsenic, up to 69 times more than the acceptable level of cadmium, up to 177 times more than the acceptable level of lead, and up to 5 times more than the acceptable level of mercury.
“I was just like blown away,” Melissa Cantabrana told Spotlight on America. “It made me really angry…to think that these heavy metals are in baby food. And I immediately thought we don't have autism in our family. I instantly knew this is it. This is what I'm talking about.”
Cantabrana told Spotlight on America that she sought legal help from Baum Hedlund’s Pedram Esfandiary and R. Brent Wisner, attorneys with firsthand knowledge of litigating cases against large corporate defendants like Monsanto Company. Both were on the trial teams in all three of the first Monsanto Roundup cases to go before juries. Wisner served as co-lead trial counsel in two of those cases, delivering the opening and closing arguments. The first three Monsanto trials resulted in jury verdicts worth more than $2.424 billion (later reduced).
“I’m not concerned about the fact that these guys are Goliaths,” Esfandiary said of the baby food industry in an interview with Spotlight on America. “All that matters is what the truth is. And the facts say these metals should have never been in baby food. They should have never ended up in the bodies of American children.”
Lawsuit Links Heavy Metals in Baby Foods to Autism
Cantabrana told Spotlight on America that her son has been dealing with autism for most of his life. Noah was diagnosed when he was two years and nine months old. “Since then, we worked tirelessly, about 8 hours a day in therapy,” Cantabrana says.
Cantabrana’s lawsuit maintains that numerous studies confirm the link between heavy metals in baby foods and autism. According to Esfandiary, babies and infants are particularly sensitive to arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead in baby foods because their brains are still developing. Also, due to their smaller size, more heavy metals are absorbed into their bodies when compared to adults.
In 2019, researchers at the University of Buffalo concluded that there is consistent evidence supporting a positive association between early life inorganic arsenic exposure and the diagnosis of ASD. In 2017, a study published in Nature Communications determined that “prenatal and early childhood disruption (excess or deficiency) of multiple metals during critical developmental windows is associated with ASD, and suggests a role for elemental dysregulation in the etiology of ASD.”
Experts in the Cantabrana case agree that the heavy metals in baby foods can increase the risk of ASD. Recently, Cantabrana’s attorneys presented their experts before the judge overseeing the case in what is known as a Sargon hearing. Like a Daubert hearing in federal court, a Sargon hearing allows the plaintiffs and the defendants in a California state court case to present their expert witnesses and educate the court on the science their arguments are based on. Once both sides have presented their experts, the judge decides whether each expert’s opinion is based on "sound logic."
Esfandiary is optimistic the judge overseeing Cantabrana’s case will rule that the experts he and Wisner presented during Sargon relied upon sound logic. Such a ruling would mean that Cantabrana’s case could move to trial expeditiously. It also means that Cantabrana’s case can enter discovery, potentially allowing documents from the defendant companies to enter the public record.
Baby Food Lawyers Advocating for Consumers Outside the Courtroom
Baum Hedlund is dedicated to publishing discovery documents, which allows people to see what happens “behind the curtain” of secrecy that normally shrouds ongoing mass tort litigation. While this advocacy work may not directly affect litigation, our firm views it as a civic duty to share the knowledge we gain through mass tort litigation with consumers so they can make more informed choices about the products they buy.
Esfandiary and R. Brent Wisner gained attention throughout the world for publishing The Monsanto Papers during the Roundup litigation. “We get these really incredible documents that affect people’s public health, and we make a point to get them unsealed,” Wisner said in an interview last year. “Most lawyers don’t bother or care to do that because it doesn’t really affect the case, but for us, it’s a greater good kind of thing.”
Recently, Esfandiary carried on that legacy of public service by submitting a public comment to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regarding its “Closer to Zero” plan. Closer to Zeros aims to reduce the levels of lead, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic in baby food products “as low as possible.” In his public comment, Esfandiary writes:
“The Agency has an opportunity, and a wealth of data and resources at its disposal, to protect the health of future generations from the disastrous effects of heavy metals. Although such metals are present in our environment – primarily at ambient levels – children’s nutrition represents the most direct and chronic route of exposure, entailing disastrous results. The well-being of future generations should not be predicated on the levels that industry deems economically acceptable to achieve for the foods that companies manufacture. The Agency’s goal must be the eradication of such metals from baby foods.”
As Baum Hedlund prepares Noah’s case for trial, his mother continues her tireless work with her son. She is determined to bring more awareness not just to her case but to the issue of heavy metals in baby foods and the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders in children.
"I'm hopeful that we will get to share this information out there to other moms and other families that it's time for this to stop,” Cantabrana told Spotlight on America. When she walks into a supermarket, she is constantly reminded that there are still a lot of mothers who have no idea that heavy metals are in the baby foods sitting in their shopping carts.
“It really bothers me when I go down the baby food aisles. They need to be held responsible for this.”
Baum Hedlund Baby Food Lawyers Represent More Than 1,000 Children Across the Country with Autism and ADHD
Baby food lawyers from the national law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman so far represent more than 1,000 American families with legal claims against seven leading baby food companies. Our firm has the experience necessary to earn justice and maximize compensation for clients. To see if you qualify for a baby food lawsuit, fill out our confidential case evaluation form or call our legal team at (855) 948-5098 to schedule an appointment with a lawyer who can answer all your questions.