Almost all baby foods U.S. parents feed their children — whether store-bought or homemade — contain detectable amounts of toxic heavy metals that can impair brain development, according to new research from Healthy Babies, Bright Futures.
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Almost all of the baby foods that parents in the United States feed their children, whether purchased at the store or prepared at home, contain detectable amounts of toxic heavy metals that can impair brain development, according to new research published last week, which led to renewed demands for improved regulation.
A previous study by Health Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) found that 95% of pre-packaged baby foods tested were contaminated with toxic heavy metals including lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury, sparking a congressional investigation and conversations about whether homemade baby foods are a safer alternative.
In an effort “to determine if homemade purees and foods purchased outside the baby food aisle have lower heavy metal levels than pre-made, store-bought baby food,” the donor-funded alliance of scientists and nonprofits recently tested 288 foods and examined more than 7,000 additional food tests from published studies.
HBBF “found no evidence to suggest that homemade baby food has lower heavy metal levels than store-bought brands,” lead author Jane Houlihan, the alliance’s research director and Charlotte Brody, its national director, wrote in their newly released report.
“Heavy metal levels varied widely by food type, not by who made the food,” notes the analysis from HBBF, which seeks to reduce infants’ exposure to damaging neurotoxins.
The alliance’s key findings include:
- 94% of all food samples we tested contained detectable amounts of toxic heavy metals: 94% of store-bought baby food and 94% of homemade purees and family brand foods.
- Rice cakes and crisped rice cereal are heavily contaminated with arsenic. They contain higher levels of inorganic arsenic (the toxic form of arsenic) than any other foods tested. Both stand out as foods to avoid for children and adults alike.
- Lead, arsenic, and cadmium levels are high in some fresh carrots and sweet potatoes. We recommend that parents vary the source by choosing from different brands, varieties, or stores each week to avoid accidentally serving a high-metal source often.
- The 10 most heavily contaminated foods consumed by babies, beginning with the highest, are rice cakes, crisped rice cereal, rice-based puffs, brown rice, rice-based teething biscuits and rusks, white rice, raisins, teething crackers (non-rice), granola bar with raisins and oat-ring cereal.
- The 10 least contaminated foods consumed by babies, beginning with the lowest, are bananas, grits, baby food brand meats, butternut squash, lamb, apples, pork, eggs, oranges and watermelon.
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