Product Liability

New report finds dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals in baby foods

November 1, 2021

New legislation has been proposed after a recent report by the U.S. House of Representative's Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy revealed dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium in various commercial baby food products.

A U.S. Congressional Report released last week by the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy determined that baby food manufacturers like Gerber and Beech-Nut failed to properly test and remove baby foods with dangerous levels of inorganic arsenic from the market. Other companies like Sprout Foods Inc., Walmart's Parent's Choice and Plum Organics were found to be lax in testing and controlling for heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium. The subcommittee Chair, Raja Krishnamoorthi, a democratic representative from Illinois, stated that: "Today's report reveals that companies not only under-report the high levels of toxic content in their baby food, but also knowingly keep toxic products on the market."

As a result of the subcommittee’s findings, Congress has recently proposed new legislation - The Baby Food Safety Act of 2021. Among other things, this Act would set limits on the maximum level of inorganic arsenic in baby food. The Act proposes a maximum level of 10 parts per billion for baby food and a 15 ppb limit for infant cereal.

In another study, advocate group Healthy Babies Bright Futures tested 168 baby foods from major manufacturers and found 95% of sampled baby foods contained lead, 73% contained arsenic, 75% contained cadmium and 32% contained mercury. One fourth of the baby foods contained all four heavy metals. "Even in trace amounts, these contaminants can alter the developing brain and erode a child's IQ," said Jane Houlihan, research director for Healthy Babies. Ms. Houlihan continued:

"From the time of conception through the age of 2, babies have an extremely high sensitivity 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... Pound for pound, babies get the highest dose of these heavy metals compared to other parts of the population. So, the consequences are serious."

Law firms are taking notice. For example, Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Law is contemplating lawsuits against baby food manufacturers like Gerber and Walmart, claiming they use “1,000 to 10,000 times” the allowed safe level of heavy metals permitted in their products. Wisner stated:

“These farms that grow the food that makes its way into baby food use lots of pesticides and fertilizers which all have very high levels of heavy metals in them. That then gets translated into there being exceedingly high levels of arsenic, mercury, cadmium and lead in basically all the baby food manufacturers... [W]hen you expose them to a baby whose brain is developing — [it] significantly increases their risk of developing autism and other neurological disorders.”

Main Street Law Firm will continue to keep its readers apprised of developments on the litigation front as well as the legislative front under the Baby Food Act of 2021.

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