Food Recall Resource

Do Reports of Heavy Metals in Baby Food Cause ‘Unnecessary Alarm’?

At Bad Food Recall, we want your family to be safe.  We have recently learned about a nationwide investigation that found 95 percent of baby foods test positive for toxic chemicals and heavy metals.  This is startling information, indeed, but does this report cause “unnecessary alarm” about food safety among parents? That is what some baby food manufacturers claim in response to the investigation.

Study Finds Heavy Metals in Baby Food

Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) conducted a nationwide study to assess the safety of baby food.  The study tested 168 baby foods across several manufacturers and brands.  The baby foods in the tests were not limited to purees and jar foods.  Tests also included juice and snacks like teething biscuits.

baby food, heavy metals
Source: HBBF Report

The study results state that 95 percent of the samples tested contained one or more of the following heavy metals:

  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Mercury

What’s more, one in four of the samples tested contained all four heavy metals.  The results show that the percentage of heavy metals in single containers of baby food are:

  • 26 percent contain all four metals
  • 40 percent contain three metals
  • 21 percent contain two metals
  • 8 percent contain one metal
  • 5 percent (only nine foods) had no measurable metal

As for the breakdown of the metals themselves:

  • 73 percent contain arsenic
  • 94 percent contain lead
  • 75 percent contain cadmium
  • 32 percent contain mercury

These numbers are alarming, but are actually lower than in previous years.  Arsenic levels in juice and rice cereal are 63 and 37 percent lower, respectively, than a decade ago.  This is largely due to companies following guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA has regulations and limits on the levels of heavy metals that are found in foods.  Specifically, the FDA focuses on infant and children’s products, including infant rice cereal, apple juice, assorted juices, candy and more.  Products tested outside of the FDA limits are considered hazardous to vulnerable populations, particularly infants and children.

What are the Risks of Heavy Metals in Baby Food?

Many parents are concerned about how toxic chemicals or defective products could impact their child.  Heavy metals are known to be toxic and can have a significant impact on your child’s health.  Even in trace amounts, heavy metals can affect your child’s health and development.

The four heavy metals found in the HBBF study are considered developmental neurotoxins.  These substances are known to cause:


  • Brain damage
  • Nervous system deficits
  • IQ loss
  • Lung, bladder and skin cancer


  • Brain damage
  • Nervous system deficits
  • Impaired development
  • Behavioral problems
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)


  • Learning disabilities
  • Brain damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Heart damage
  • Lung damage
  • Cancer


  • Brain damage
  • Vision damage
  • Intelligence deficits
  • Memory deficits
  • Cardiovascular disease

Are Baby Food Contamination Concerns Unnecessary?

Some think that the report about heavy metals is being taken too seriously considering how closely it follows a Johnson & Johnson recall of 33,000 bottles of baby powder.  The baby powder is being recalled after sub-trace levels of asbestos were found in at least one sample.  These reports seem to be making parents uneasy about products they use for their babies.

Baby food manufacturers are defending themselves against the HBBF study.  A spokeswoman for Gerber states that due to metals occurring naturally that,

“it is not feasible to achieve a “zero” level of these elements — even in homemade foods made from organic ingredients.”

Similarly, Beech-Nut reports that their company already tests for contaminants, including lead and heavy metals.  The company states that they support the recommendations from the HBBF, and are especially selective in sourcing and testing their products.

Recommendations to Reduce Heavy Metal Contamination

Following their investigation, the HBBF has offered recommendations to reduce heavy metals in baby food.  The recommendations are geared toward parents and product manufacturers.

Recommendations for Parents

Parents can lower the risk of exposure to heavy metals by making informed buying decisions.  There are several types of baby food that are more likely to contain heavy metals than others.  The HBBF provides a chart of the high risk foods and safer alternatives that are less likely to expose infants and children.

baby food, heavy metal, fda

Parents also can reduce the risk of exposure to heavy metals by providing a varied diet.  Learn about the nutrients and potential toxins in different foods you are considering offering to your child.  Make sure you are offering a variety of foods that will promote overall health and wellness.

Recommendations for Baby Food Companies

Research shows that rice-based baby foods have the highest risk of heavy metal contamination.  To reduce these risks, the FDA and experts recommend that baby food companies do the following:

  • Source rice from farms with lower levels of arsenic in soil
  • Grow rice with natural soil additives that prevent or reduce uptake of arsenic by the plant’s roots
  • Grow strains of rice that are less likely to uptake arsenic
  • Assess irrigation practices
  • Prepare rice with excess water and pour off remaining excess
  • Blend rice with other grains that have lower levels of arsenic

Current research suggests that no baby food company has reduced the level of arsenic in rice products comparable to products made from other grains.  This is certainly disheartening considering how many consumer alerts and public attention is on this matter.

Recommendations for the FDA

The HBBF recommends that the FDA assess standards for heavy metals and continue to prioritize baby foods.  The FDA is also urged to implement proactive testing measures for all foods consumed by babies and toddlers.  Proactive testing of food products should be similar to testing measures used by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for children’s products.

The HBBF also recommends the FDA review and reconsider health-based limits for heavy metals and chemicals in rice-based baby foods.  The HBBF study shows that 88 percent of the products testing positive for heavy metals do not have enforceable FDA limits.  Furthermore, several tests show arsenic levels in rice-based baby food exceed the FDA’s safety limit for inorganic arsenic.

Support for Families Impacted by Contaminated Baby Food

If your child is suffering side effects of contaminated baby food, Bad Food Recall can help.  Our attorneys offer legal guidance and support for families who are suffering due to a defective or dangerous baby food product.  Find out more about your legal rights and get answers to any questions you have by calling us at 1-877-534-5750.  You can also request free information by completing our online form.




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