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Lawmakers introduce bill to limit heavy metals in baby food

In 2019, a study by Healthy Babies Bright Futures found that 95% of baby foods tested were contaminated with toxic heavy metals.
Mother feeding her baby daughter
Posted at 2:39 PM, May 09, 2024

Lawmakers introduced a new bill Thursday to limit the use of heavy metals in baby foods.

The bill, which is called “The Baby Food Safety Act of 2024," was introduced by U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tammy Duckworth.

Heavy metals include lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium, for example.

"Heavy metals can be associated with the developing brain, especially in babies or young children," said Dr. Alexis Monique Javier, pediatrician with Children's Memorial Hermann Pediatrics.

However, she explained that low levels of heavy metals in baby foods are a small part of a child's overall risk to toxic metal exposure. Other things like a recent home construction project could also increase exposure.

"If a child is exposed to a heavy metal then that can lead to problems with cognition and problem-solving and behaviors and learning, but there are so many other factors that play a part into developing a healthy, happy brain such as genetics, social environmental factors," Dr. Javier said.

A study from 2016 found that certain heavy metals, even in small quantities, can contribute to neurological and developmental impairment. This includes Alzheimer’s disease and autism spectrum disorders.

The new bill would help the Food and Drug Administration develop limits for toxic heavy metals in baby food.

The act has three main goals: Raise standards for baby foods from contaminants, set standards for sampling and testing, and strengthen the FDA’s ability to enforce higher safety standards.

Previously, limits were only in place for infant rice cereal and juice.

"If your child does have concerning signs of heavy metal exposure, like you're noticing their behavior is off or they're not where they should be developmental-wise, then that's definitely a conversation for the pediatrician to see if you need to test further to see if there is heavy metal exposure in their blood," Dr. Javier said.

For years, studies have found levels of heavy metals in baby and toddler foods that experts find concerning.

Back in 2019, a study by the nonprofit Healthy Babies Bright Futures found that 95% of baby foods tested were contaminated with toxic heavy metals.

“Parents want what’s best for their children, and they deserve peace of mind knowing the food they purchase for their babies and toddlers is safe,” Klobuchar said in a press release. “This legislation will boost food safety standards and require more complete testing by manufacturers to prevent heavy metals from poisoning our kids.”

Regulation and enforcement of these possible new guidelines would fall under the FDA's authority.

@scrippsnews Lawmakers want to limit the use of heavy metals in baby food. The new bill, titled “The Baby Food Safety Act of 2024”, was introduced Thursday. The bill has three main goals, including setting standards for sampling and testing of baby food products. #BabyFood #HeavyMetals #healthtok #news ♬ original sound - Scripps News