House Oversight Committee Releases Alarming Report About Toxic Metals in Baby Foods

Posted on February 5th, 2021 to Lakeside Pediatrics

On February 4, 2021, the House Oversight Committee, headed by Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democrat from Illinois, issued a scathing report of neglect leading to high levels of toxic heavy metals in baby foods.  There were two major accusations made:


  • Baby food companies knowingly sell baby foods high in toxic metals.
  • The FDA has failed to provide oversight of toxic metal content in baby foods.


The companies who responded to the committee’s inquiries were:


  • Nurture (Happy Baby)
  • Beech Nut
  • Hain (Earth’s Best Organic)
  • Gerber


These three companies did not respond to the committee’s inquiries, which led to the report’s conclusion that maybe they were hiding high levels of toxic metals in their foods:


  • Sprout Organics
  • Walmart (Parent’s Choice)
  • Campbell Soup Company (Plum Organics)


The metals studied were arsenic, lead, mercury, and cadmium.  The FDA only has a standard maximum level in baby food for arsenic after it was found in high levels of brown rice products in baby foods.  There are no maximum limits of the other three metals.  However, the FDA limits the amounts of lead in bottled water, juice, and candy.  It also regulates the amounts of cadmium and arsenic in bottled water.


Levels of those metals in each of these companies’ foods were far higher than the limits for bottled water.  Even arsenic was high despite there being a limit.  Companies knew about these high levels, yet the report states that they sold the foods anyways.


The report mentions a “secret” presentation by Hain (Earth’s Best Organic) to the Trump Administration on August 1, 2019 in which it discussed elevated levels of toxic metals in baby foods.  It states that the Trump Administration ignored it.


One limitation of this report is that it is partisan.  The oversight committee is led by Democrats.


The significance of the elevated levels of toxic metals is not clear.  Each of these metals is a neurotoxin and can affect a baby’s IQ and cognitive development.


How should you interpret this report?


  • Let’s give it some time to see how this issue settles out as it gets further explored. Don’t write off all manufactured baby foods just yet.
  • The FDA must now establish safety standards. This is progress!
  • It is safe to make homemade baby foods from whole organic ingredients. Do not add salt or sugar.  This teaches your baby to appreciate natural tastes and textures.  Making your own baby food is time-consuming.  It also does not guarantee that heavy metals from what you think are safe natural ingredients won’t get into your homemade food (that then won’t get tested).
  • It’s not clear what levels of toxic metals will cause what amounts of neurocognitive damage. In our patients, we don’t have any examples of toxic metals causing neurocognitive deficits that we’re aware of.
  • If your baby has been eating these foods, try to keep in mind the things you know – your baby is healthy, and you’re doing your best to keep her safe. With a lot of variety in your baby’s diet you lower the risk of any one exposure.
  • We do not recommend getting your normally developing baby tested for levels of these toxic metals. The chance of finding something abnormal enough for us to give chelation therapy is exceedingly low.  We test for lead at 12 and 24 months of age.