Gerber and Earth’s Best Organic have made some changes that have lowered the levels of toxic heavy metals in baby food products, including infant rice cereal. But even with the slight reductions in arsenic, lead, and mercury in infant rice cereal, these products still contain enough heavy metals for parents to avoid them altogether.
Why is Arsenic Dangerous for Babies?
While arsenic is naturally found in soil, air, and water, it is a known carcinogen that can cause cardiovascular, immune, and neurodevelopmental issues. Even at low levels, arsenic exposure can negatively affect neurodevelopment in babies.
The World Health Organization (WHO) lists arsenic as a “major public health concern” for children. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has warned that arsenic and other heavy metals “may build up in biological systems and become a significant health hazard.” The Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) ranks arsenic as number one among substances present in the environment that pose the most significant potential threat to human health. Lead and mercury, two other heavy metals detected at significant levels in baby foods, are second and third.
Heavy metals such as arsenic have the ability to accumulate in the body, which is particularly hazardous for babies and young children. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), rice intake for infants is roughly three times higher than for adults relative to body weight.
Infant rice cereal is the most common way infants consume rice. Relative to body weight, babies consume the greatest amount of rice at about eight months of age, which is a critical time for infant brain development.
What is Inorganic Arsenic?
An organic arsenic compound is when the arsenic molecule attaches to carbon. An inorganic arsenic compound does not contain carbon and is far more toxic. Incremental exposure to inorganic arsenic has been connected to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and reduced IQ.
Infant Rice Cereal Arsenic Content
Consumer Reports, a nonprofit that works with consumers for truth, transparency, and fairness in the marketplace, conducted arsenic testing on Gerber and Earth’s Best Organic infant rice cereal products earlier this year. The following arsenic levels were found in Gerber and Earth’s Best Organic infant/baby rice cereals:
- Earth’s Best Organic Infant Rice Cereal
- Average inorganic arsenic levels: 66.4 ppb
- Gerber’s Single-Grain Rice Baby Cereal
- Average inorganic arsenic levels: 62.9 ppb
- Gerber’s Organic Single-Grain Rice Baby Cereal
- Average inorganic arsenic levels: 61.1 ppb
While these levels are lower than what the previous testing found, they are still too high and pose significant risk to vulnerable babies. Gerber and Earth’s Best Organic (Hain Celestial) say their products are in compliance with current government limits. But the FDA set the limit for inorganic arsenic at 100 ppb due to the heightened risk for cancer from long-term exposure at that limit, not to protect babies from neurodevelopmental harm. The FDA arsenic limit does not account for the volume of research showing that neurological harm can happen at lower levels than 100 ppb.
Other types of infant cereals have lower levels of inorganic arsenic and should be considered as a substitute for the products listed above and others that were named in the February 2021 Congressional baby food report. For instance, infant oatmeal products tend to contain lower amounts of inorganic arsenic.
Studies have found that arsenic levels are lower in infant cereals with the following ingredients as a substitute for rice:
Legislators Call for Lower Levels of Arsenic in Rice Cereal
In 2021, New York Attorney General Letitia James and almost two dozen attorneys general petitioned the FDA to reduce the limit for inorganic arsenic found in infant rice cereal. Currently, the FDA allows 100 parts per billion, and the petition calls for a lower, more protective limit. The petition also called upon the agency to speed up its plans to establish limits on other heavy metals in baby food, including mercury, lead, and cadmium.
As a result of this action, several manufacturers agreed to suspend or claimed they had already stopped selling infant cereals containing rice. However, Gerber and Earth’s Best Organic infant rice cereals remain on the market. Both businesses have explained that they have decreased the levels of heavy metals found in infant rice cereals. But if less arsenic is still between 60 and 70 ppb, there is more that needs to be done. “The goal should be to have no measurable levels of any heavy metal in baby foods,” says James E. Rogers, PhD, director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports.
Baby Cereal Without Arsenic: How to Protect Your Child From Heavy Metals
According to the director of food policy at Consumer Reports, even the newer, relatively lower levels of arsenic found in infant rice cereals are still significantly higher than what you may find in other types of infant grain cereals, such as oatmeal.
Tips to Help Limit Your Baby’s Arsenic Exposure
Following these tips can help reduce your child’s intake of inorganic arsenic and other toxic heavy metals:
- Limit your child’s consumption of high-risk foods.
- Rice cereals are among the most high-risk foods for babies and young children, but this also includes other products that contain rice, like rice puffs and rice cakes. Other foods that have been found to contain high levels of arsenic include grape juice, apple juice, and sweet potatoes. Feeding your child other whole grains like oatmeal is a safer choice.
- “Organic” foods may not contain less arsenic.
- Unfortunately, not all organic foods are created equal. You can check the results of the Consumer Reports tests of rice and rice products to learn which products are the safest.
- Don’t be fooled by the marketing.
- New York Attorney General Letitia James submitted a letter on February 17th, 2022 demanding that baby food company Holle USA stop marketing its baby foods as “lead-free” and containing “[n]o detectable traces of heavy metals” after the lab testing ordered by the attorney general’s office discovered the company’s products contained detectable levels of arsenic, cadmium, and lead.
- Keep your child’s diet colorful.
- Exposing your child to a wide variety of foods is a great way to ensure they get the nutrients they need while preventing them from overeating foods that may have higher concentrations of heavy metals.
Baby Food Autism Lawsuit Claims
If your child has suffered a developmental disorder such as ADHD or autism, after consuming baby foods from several leading manufacturers, you may be eligible for compensation in a toxic baby food lawsuit. Our firm is currently accepting baby food lawsuit cases involving the following companies:
- Beech-Nut Nutrition Company
- Hain Celestial Group – Earth’s Best Organic
- Nurture – Happy Family Organics, HappyBABY
- Plum Organics
- Sprout Foods (Sprout Organic Foods)
- Walmart – Parent’s Choice
The skilled attorneys at Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman represent many parents throughout the United States in baby food cases, and we are no strangers to taking on large corporations. We have won over $4 billion in verdicts and settlements for our clients, and we are prepared to fight for you and your family too.