Baby Food Safety
Recent congressional reports[1,
2] found heavy metals in baby foods and baby juices. Heavy metals, including lead, are in the environment and can get into crops and food through the soil, water, and air, or through processing. Because fruits, vegetables, grains, and spices can contain heavy metals, these metals can also be found in both packaged and homemade food, including organic. This news can leave parents with a lot of questions. Here is more information and tips for parents to keep their children safe.
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.
- Lead adds up in the body over time, so it is important to reduce lead exposure from all sources.
What is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doing about this?
FDA announced action levels for lead in categories of processed baby foods as part of their campaign
Closer to Zero. The campaign seeks to reduce exposure to lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury to the lowest levels possible in foods eaten by babies and young children. It includes food packaged in jars, pouches, tubs, and boxes that are intended for babies and young children less than two years old.
The draft guidance contains the following action levels:
- 10 parts per billion (ppb) for fruits, vegetables (excluding single-ingredient root vegetables), mixtures (including grain and meat-based mixtures), yogurts, custards/puddings and single-ingredient meats.
- 20 ppb for root vegetables (single ingredient).
- 20 ppb for dry cereals.
What can I do?
- Feed your child healthy meals and snacks (PDF) and not too much of one thing.
- Limit higher risk foods for heavy metals and make safer choices (see list below).
- 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.
Tips for making safer food choices:
Cereal, snacks, and teething foods
Foods containing rice or rice flour can contain arsenic. Teething biscuits can contain lead, arsenic, and cadmium.
Instead, try these rice-free foods and healthy snacks:
eggs. For teething pain, try
frozen banana slices,
cold peeled cucumber, or a clean cold wet washcloth or spoon (watch for choking).
Fruits and vegetables
Veggies that grow underground, like carrots and sweet potatoes, are a good source of nutrients, but can contain lead and cadmium.
Mix it up! Serve a variety of fruits and vegetables from every color of the rainbow during the week.
Juice, especially apple, pear, and grape, can contain lead and arsenic.
Water and milk are safer drink options. You can also choose whole or pureed fruit.
Where can I get more information?
View/download the informational flyer - Bilingual (English/Spanish) (PDF)
U.S. House of Representatives staff report, "Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury" (PDF) February 4, 2021
U.S. House of Representatives staff report, "New Disclosures Show Dangerous Levels of Toxic Heavy Metals in Even More Baby Foods" (PDF) September 29, 2021
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastmilk or formula for the first year of life.