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childhood lead poisoning prevention branch

Baby Food Safety

The U.S. House of Representatives report titled, "Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury" states that baby foods and baby juices can contain lead and other toxic heavy metals. Toxic heavy metals including lead are in the environment. Heavy metals can get into food, including crops, through air, water, and soil. Heavy metals cannot be completely avoided with organic farming methods. Heavy metals can also get into food through processing. Because fruits, vegetables, grains, and spices can contain toxic metals, these metals can also be found in both packaged and homemade food. Because lead exposure is cumulative, it is important to reduce lead exposure from all sources.

Why is this important?

  • There is no known safe level of lead in the body, especially for children.
  • Lead can make it hard for children to learn, pay attention, and behave.

What can I do?

You don't have to stop feeding your infant prepared baby food but do:

  • Feed your child healthy meals and snacks and not too much of one thing.
  • Limit foods with higher toxic metals and make safer choices. 

Foods with higher toxic metals

Safer choices

Foods containing rice or rice flour, like
  • Cereal, puffs, and rice rusks (rice-based foods can contain arsenic)
  • Teething biscuits (can contain lead, arsenic, and cadmium)

Switch to rice-free foods, like oatmeal, quinoa, multi-grain cereal, polenta, farro.

To help with teething pain, try frozen banana slices, cold peeled cucumber, or a clean cold wet washcloth or spoon (watch for choking).

Vegetables that grow underground, like carrots and sweet potatoes (these are a good source of nutrients but can contain lead and cadmium).Mix it up! Give your child these occasionally, plus other fruits and vegetables during the week. Serve foods from every color of the rainbow.
Juice, especially apple, pear, and grape (can contain lead and arsenic).Water and milk[1] are safer drink options. You can also choose whole or pureed fruit.

[1] The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastmilk or formula for the first year of life.

  • To prevent lead poisoning, in addition to feeding your child healthy foods, take simple steps to avoid the most common sources of lead exposure. Wash hands often, especially before eating. Use lead-safe dishware and cold water for drinking, cooking, and baby formula.
  • If you think your child may have been exposed to lead, ask your child's doctor about a blood lead test.

Where can I get more information?

The Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch is developing educational resources for families and health care providers in response to the U.S. House of Representatives report. This page will be updated as additional information and resources become available.

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