A new law seeking to establish new maximum levels of toxic metals baby food has been tabled by legislators in the US Parliament in an effort to protect the health of the country’s youngest population.
Formally introduced as The Baby Food Safety Act of 2021, the bill particularly aims to regulate the levels of inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury found in baby food and cereal products.
All of these heavy metals have been linked to cancer, chronic disease and neurotoxic effects, but it’s the damage that can be done to a developing baby’s brain that makes baby food toxicity a critical concern.
Jane Houlihan, the national director of science and health for Healthy Babies Bright Futures notes that from conception through the age of 2, babies’ brains are extremely sensitive to neurotoxic chemicals.
“Their brain is forming rapidly, and so when they’re exposed to metals that can interrupt those natural processes, the impacts range from behavioral problems to aggression to IQ loss and all kinds of cognitive and behavioral deficits that can persist throughout life,” Houlihan added.
Under the proposed regulations, baby food should contain no more than ten parts per billion (ppb) of inorganic arsenic, five ppb of lead and cadmium and two ppb of mercury.
Cereal products will be required to have no more than 15 ppb of inorganic arsenic, no more than ten ppb of lead and cadmium and two ppb of mercury.
The bill also requires requires levels of toxic metals to be lowered further within two years through FDA guidance, and within three years through regulation.
The new laws would also mandate manufacturers to test final products and ingredients for toxic heavy metals and post these results online.
The introduction of the bill follows a report from the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy last month, which alleged that many baby foods on sale in the US are “tainted with dangerous levels” of toxic metals.
The report expressed concerns about the impact of these substances on infant health and recommended that actions be taken to protect children from further exposure.
Following the report, the FDA stated that it would boost sampling of baby foods and increase inspections.
The agency also stated that it would work with manufacturers and legislators to move ahead with a “plan aimed at reducing toxic elements in foods for babies and young children to levels as low as is reasonably achievable.”
If passed, the law will give the government the authority to recall products that do not meet these standards.
Manufacturers of baby foods and infant formula products for children up to 36 months would need to comply with these new limits within one year of the legislation taking effect.
Since many of these metals are in the earth in which crops are grown, the bill also earmarks US$50 million for the National Academy of Sciences to research agricultural ways to minimize heavy metals.
In addition, the bill would also require the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to implement a campaign to educate parents and others on the dangers of heavy metals.