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What Can Toxic Metals do to Developing Babies?
It’s been clear for decades that levels of heavy metals like arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury are dangerous to human health. But when it comes to young children, they're even more dangerous.
They can harm a developing baby’s brain and nervous system, both in the womb and after birth. Arsenic, lead exposure, cadmium and mercury can negatively impact the brain development of an otherwise healthy baby.
In recent years, there have been at least 23 peer-reviewed studies underlining the dangers to young children when it comes to heavy metal exposure. The common symptoms of exposure include:
- Loss of IQ
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Other learning and behavioral impacts
According to health advocates who studied data of national surveys of food contamination and consumption of American children aged 0 to 24 months, American children lose 11 million IQ points from exposure to arsenic and lead in these foods. Rice-based foods also account for about 20% of this loss and 15 foods account for over half of this loss of IQ points.
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Health Babies Bright Future (HBBF) Report
The 2019 Healthy Babies Bright Futures  Report found heavy metals in 95% of containers tested. One in 4 commercial baby foods contained all 4 metals assessed by the lab—arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.
"Even in the trace amounts found in food, these contaminants can alter the developing brain and erodes a child’s IQ," the researchers said. "The impacts add up with each meal or snack a baby eats. Fresh research continues to confirm widespread exposures and troubling health risks for babies, including cancer and lifelong deficits in intelligence from exposures to these common food contaminants. Despite the risks, with few exceptions there are no enforceable limits for toxic elements in contaminated baby food."
For the HBBF report, the scientists tested 168 foods consumed by babies and toddlers from brands including Gerber, Earth's Best, Beech-Nut baby food, and popular store brands. One in 4 contained all 4 toxic chemicals included in the study.
The researchers found notably high levels of heavy metals in some containers. Four of 7 infant rice cereals tested contained inorganic arsenic (the toxic form of arsenic) in excess of FDA’s proposed action level of 100 parts per billion (ppb). Eighty-three percent of baby foods tested had more lead exposure than the 1-ppb limit endorsed by public health advocates, and 1 of every 5 foods tested had over 10 times that amount.
88% of foods tested lack any federal standards or guidance on maximum safe levels of heavy metals like arsenic and lead.
The report's tests are from a nationally accredited laboratory and have been released with the support of doctors, experts, and other organizations.
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Which Baby Food Brands Contain Toxic Metal?
Organic food brands listed in the report include:
- Beech-Nut Nutrition Company
- Earth’s Best Organic
- Hain Celestial Group
- Happy Family Organics
- Gerber, Parent’s Choice
- Plum Organics
- Sprout Organic Foods
The subcommittee also reached out to baby food brands sold by Walmart and Campbell Soup Company, which did not allow the investigation.
United States Congressional Report
There are reports of over 80 lawsuits filed against firms that were named in a February 2021 report about highly dangerous levels of arsenic and other poisons in baby food.
The report reviewed 4 levels of toxic heavy metals: inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have declared them dangerous to human health, particularly to babies and children, who are most vulnerable to their neurotoxic effects. Even low levels of exposure can cause serious and often irreversible damage to brain development, according to the report.
Following reports of high levels of toxic heavy metals in baby food, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy in November 2019 requested internal documents and test results from some of the largest manufacturers of baby food products in the U.S., including makers of organic and conventional products. Arsenic was present in baby foods made by all baby food companies that responded to the congressional request.
In March 2021, a group of plaintiffs filed a request to consolidate their lawsuits against the baby food manufacturers in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, where most of the cases are pending.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) denied the request on June 7, 2021, finding that cases would be too defendant specific.
“At a general level, these actions are similar," the panel said. "All plaintiffs allege that defendants knowingly sold baby food products containing heavy metals and did not disclose this in their marketing. It is not disputed, though, that each defendant manufactures, markets, and distributes its own baby food products subject to different manufacturing processes, suppliers, and quality control procedures."
“The claims against each defendant thus are likely to rise or fall on facts specific to that defendant, such as the amount of heavy metals in its products, the results of its internal testing, if any, and its marketing strategies.”
Some of the lawsuits include groups of parents who contend that the toxins found in the baby food led to the development of autism in their children.
Beech-Nut Infant Rice Cereal Recall
In June 2021, Beech-Nut Nutrition issued a recall for its cereal because it contained levels of arsenic above federal guidelines.
In the recall notice posted on the FDA website, Beech-Nut also announced it will no longer sell the rice cereal and says it has "decided to exit the market for Beech-Nut branded Single Grain Rice Cereal."
"Beech-Nut is concerned about the ability to consistently obtain rice flour well-below the FDA guidance level and Beech-Nut specifications for naturally occurring inorganic arsenic," the company said.
Beech-Nut's move followed a House Oversight subcommittee investigation that found levels of arsenic, lead and other metals that can harm brain development in many popular baby foods.
Rocket Fuel Chemical Found in Baby Food
Perchlorate, a chemical used in the creation of rockets, fireworks and matches, has also been found in baby foods. In 2005, Perchlorate was approved by the FDA as an “indirect additive” in plastic packaging for foods and today is used as an anti-static agent in cereals, infant formula, and other baby food. Grains become staticky when ground very small and packaged, so food companies started adding perchlorate to the inside of plastic packaging walls to solve that problem.
Perchlorate disrupts thyroid function and blocks the uptake of iodine to the thyroid. When this happens in utero or in early childhood, IQ loss and development issues become very possible.
In 2020, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement that food additives like perchlorate were dangerous to children and should not be approved by the FDA. These results show a prevalence of perchlorate in baby food and underline the need for the FDA to ban all food uses of perchlorate in baby food. Babies are already getting heavy metals in their baby food, and perchlorate isn’t a helpful chemical in terms of neurodevelopment for American children.
What are Pediatricians Saying?
Pediatricians warn consumers about the danger of heavy metals in toxic baby food.
“Arsenic, lead and other heavy metals are known causes of neurodevelopmental harm,” said Dr. Phillip Landrigan, a pediatrician and Director of the Program in Global Public Health and the Common Good in the Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society at Boston College. “Low-level exposures add up, and exposures in early life are especially dangerous. The cumulative impact of exposures is what makes this a significant concern that demands action.”
Why is there Toxic Metal in Baby Foods?
"It's important to note that contaminants exist naturally in the environment, so the idea that you could eat a contaminant-free diet or buy products devoid of any contaminant is just not feasible," according to Jennifer Lowry, M.D., Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health and Chief of Medical Toxicology at Children's Mercy Kansas City. "Foods take up metals like lead and arsenic from the soil and drinking water and baby foods are tainted during storage, processing, or transport," Lowry said. "Making your own baby food doesn't mean you're in the clear, since even fresh produce can have these contaminants too."
Which Baby Food Doesn't Contain Heavy Metals
Safer alternatives exist, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the options. In fact, you’ll save an average of 80% less toxic exposure if you follow these solutions:
- Snacks Solutions: If you choose rice-free snacks over puff snacks made from rice you’ll get about 93% less toxic heavy metals.
- Teething Food Solutions: If you choose soothing foods for teething like a frozen banana or chilled cucumber instead of teething biscuits or rice rusks, you’ll get about 91% less toxic heavy metals.
- Cereal Solution: If you choose other infant cereals like multi-grain and oatmeal instead of infant rice cereal you’ll get about 84% less toxic heavy metals.
- Drinks: If you choose tap water instead of giving your child fruit juice, you’ll get about 68% less toxic heavy metals.
- Fruits & Veggies: If you choose a variety of fruits & veggies instead of just carrots & sweet potatoes all the time, you’ll get about 73% less toxic heavy metals.
Can I Sue for Metals in Baby Food?
Our law firm is accepting potential lawsuits on behalf of children aged 15-years-old or younger who were diagnosed with any of the following conditions after consuming baby food products in a jar, juice, cereal, snack, biscuit, etc:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Asperger’s Syndrome
- Rett Syndrome
- Early Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
- Kanner’s Syndrome
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder
Check our blog to see other related product liability lawsuits that we've covered.
Get a Free Baby Food Lawsuit Evaluation With Our Lawyers
The Food Poisoning Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in a Baby Food Lawsuit. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new injury and death cases in all 50 states.
Free Case Evaluation: Again, if your child or other loved one was harmed by baby food, you should contact Schmidt & Clark lawyers immediately. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a Baby Food Lawsuit and we can help.