6 On Your Side: Consumer Confidence, Baby Food Investigation

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(ABC 6 News) – It’s a warning every parent needs to hear: the foods you might be feeding your baby could contain potentially hazardous heavy metals.

Even with mounting pressure to reduce heavy metals in baby food products, a new Consumer Reports investigation finds the overall risk of many baby food products hasn’t improved.

Five years ago, Consumer Reports tested 50 baby food products and found concerning levels of heavy metals in most of the products.

“About two-thirds were found to contain enough inorganic arsenic, lead, and cadmium combined to be associated with potential health risks,” says Consumer Reports Health Reporter Kevin Loria.

Long-term intake of heavy metals can lead to a higher risk of a variety of health problems, including lower IQ, behavioral issues, have been linked to ADHD and autism, increased cancer risk, and other issues in young children.

Now five years later, CR retested seven baby foods that had concerning levels of heavy metals in its original tests.

In three of the products, heavy metal levels declined. But for three others, the levels are still high enough to be concerning.

“Back in 2018 and in our recent tests, baby snack foods, such as puffs, and products made with sweet potatoes and rice fared the worst. That’s because certain plants, like rice, absorb higher levels of heavy metals than other plants,” says Loria.

Beechnut, Gerber, Earth’s Best, and Happy Family, responded to CR, saying their products were safe and that heavy metals are naturally occurring in the environment in which these foods are grown.

The makers of Baby MumMum products did not respond.

CR’s experts believe that even at the levels of heavy metals they found, it is important to minimize exposure and protect your family.

“You don’t want to completely eliminate foods like sweet potatoes – because they do have nutritional value. Just remember, variety is key. Make sure your kids eat a wide variety of healthy foods,” says Loria.

Low heavy metal options include: infant cereals made from oats and other non-rice whole grains; fresh and frozen fruit; eggs; beans; applesauce; cheese; and yogurt.

CR also recommends parents minimize the amount of baby snacks, like puffs and teething wafers, in their young ones’ diets. These are more likely to be high in heavy metals and are highly processed foods.