Welcome to Consumer Reports Advocacy

For 85 years CR has worked for laws and policies that put consumers first. Learn more about CR’s work with policymakers, companies, and consumers to help build a fair and just marketplace at TrustCR.org

CR renews call for FDA and manufacturers to take action to keep infants and children safe from heavy metals in foods

New House Oversight Committee report finds alarming levels of heavy metals in baby food

YONKERS, NY – A new report released today by the House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy reinforces previous research by Consumer Reports finding alarming levels of heavy metals in popular baby and toddler foods.  The House Subcommittee report is based on internal company documents obtained from four leading manufacturers that reveal that some baby foods have significant levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury.

“The findings in the report are disturbing since exposure to even small amounts of these heavy metals at an early age may increase the risk of significant health problems over time,’ said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports.  “It’s especially troubling that some companies knew of the high levels of heavy metal contamination and still sold the products.

Ronholm continued, “Parents shouldn’t have to worry about whether they are exposing their children to dangerous levels of heavy metals like lead and arsenic in baby food. We support the recommendations outlined in the report because it’s imperative that the FDA and manufacturers take action to ensure that babies and toddlers are safe from these potentially serious health risks.”

In 2018, CR’s food safety team analyzed 50 nationally distributed packaged foods made for babies and toddlers, checking for cadmium, lead, mercury, and inorganic arsenic, the type most harmful to health.  Those tests found that about two-thirds (68 percent) had worrisome levels of at least one heavy metal. Fifteen of the foods would pose potential health risks to a child regularly eating just one serving or less per day. Snacks and products containing rice and/or sweet potatoes were particularly likely to have high levels of heavy metals.

CR urged the FDA to take a number of steps to protect children from these hazards:

  • Establish aggressive targets: Set a goal of having no measurable amounts of cadmium, inorganic arsenic, or lead in baby and children’s food.
  • Create and enforce benchmarks: To reach its goals in baby and children’s food, FDA should insist that manufacturers follow recognized best practices and set incremental targets for industry to meet along the way.
  • Finalize existing proposed guidelines: FDA should limit inorganic arsenic in apple juice to 10 ppb and revise existing guidance for lead in fruit juice to reduce the limit from 50 to 5 ppb, the standard for bottled water.

CR advises parents not to panic in light of today’s report and to talk to their pediatrician if they are concerned about potential exposure. Consuming these foods doesn’t guarantee that a child will develop health problems, but it may increase that risk. Parents can take a number of steps to reduce heavy metals exposure, including serving their children a broad array of healthful whole foods; limiting intake of infant rice cereal and packaged snacks and being conscious of intake of fruit juices; and choosing rice that generally contains less inorganic arsenic.

Contact: Michael McCauley, michael.mccauley@consumer.org, 415-902-9537