Heavy Metals Found in Both Packaged and Homemade Baby Food

When it comes to toxic heavy metals (think: mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium), homemade baby food may not be any better than store-bought.

new report released exclusively to CNN tested 288 foods from stores and farmer’s markets in the U.S. These included fruits, vegetables, grains, teething foods, cereals, and rice cakes. All were tested for heavy metals (mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium – among the WHO’s top 10 concerning chemicals for infants and children).

“Toxic metal exposure can be harmful to the developing brain. It’s been linked with problems with learning, cognition, and behavior,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The study also included data from an additional 7,000 food tests by the FDA. The conclusion was that 94% of manufactured baby foods, family foods, and homemade purees (even when made from raw foods) contained at least one heavy metal.

Lead was found in 90% of manufactured baby food and 80% of store-bought purees, and other foods young children consume. Even in tiny amounts, lead is harmful – “There is no safe level of lead, according to the AAP.”
Arsenic was found in 68% of store-bought baby food and 72% of family food, whether store-bought or made at home.
Cadmium was found in 65% of store-bought baby food and 60% of family foods.
Mercury was found in 7% of store-bought baby food and 10% of family foods.

This study came as a follow-up to a study done in 2019, which showed high levels of heavy metals in baby food from food manufacturers. At the time, homemade baby food seemed like a better option; therefore, researchers wanted to test this theory.

When researchers followed up, sure enough, there were heavy metals found in foods throughout grocery stores, not just baby foods, specifically – the FDA may have set standards for baby food, but not other foods (the ingredients/foods that would go into making baby food).

Does organic make a difference? Unfortunately not, according to the report. American soil and water are loaded with heavy metals, making even organic farming practices obsolete when it comes to heavy metals.

The soil would have to be verified as metal-free, and the water used would need to be filtered. Buying organic does, however, help reduce the risk of other contaminants, such as herbicides and pesticides.

For concerned parents, pediatrician Dr. Mark Corkins, who is also chair of the Committee on Nutrition of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says to feed babies many different types of foods.

“If you spread foods out, and offer a wide variety of options, you’ll have less toxicity,” Corkins said. “And nutritionally, that’s always been the right thing to do to get the most micronutrients from the food you eat.”

Rather than get overwhelmed, experts advise parents to make one simple choice daily to lower their toxin exposure. This may mean avoiding rice (one of the more contaminated crops), or rotating and limiting other foods with varying degrees of contamination. A chart of the more highly contaminated and the least contaminated foods can be found here.

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