After a stunning national news reveal, many parents still don’t know what’s going on in the baby food aisle at their local grocer. A two-year study conducted by the U.S. House Oversight Committee has verified a scientific link between repeated unregulated doses of neurotoxins in baby foods – arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury – and an increased risk of childhood ASD (autism spectrum disorder).
The WHO (World Health Organization) agrees; also the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), supported by a substantial body of medical research.
The U.S. is experiencing an epidemic of autism, with 1/44 children diagnosed compared to 1/100 in other industrialized countries, a 178 percent increase since 2000. Heightened awareness and advanced diagnostics cannot serve as the only explanation.
The House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy (part of the Oversight Committee) published its research in February 2021, “Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury,” naming seven legacy labels as alleged offenders after testing 168 finished products and finding 95 percent of them contained dangerous amounts of heavy metals directly associated with increased identification of early autism, from birth to age 14:
- Earth’s Best Organic (Hain Celestial Group)
- HappyBABY (Nurture)
- Parent’s Choice (Walmart private label)
- Plum Organics (Campbell)
- Sprout Foods
The House report was commissioned to follow up and confirm an earlier report conducted by HBBF (Healthy Babies Bright Futures), a nonprofit research organization whose aim is to prevent neurotoxins from endangering a child for the first two years of life. The HBBF study also found 95 percent of 288 tested baby foods were toxic with heavy metals, and further examined 7,000 additional food tests from other published research.
The big question is how giant industry leaders allegedly allowed (are still allowing) safety measures to lapse while assuring families for generations that their products were part of the family.
The Most Trusted Brands Allegedly Ignored Safety.
Even at low levels, exposure to heavy metals is known to cause potential irreversible damage to brain development, especially when the brain is forming unmarked neural pathways for cognition and behavior. Many children are diagnosed with behavioral disorders between birth and age 3, some up to age 14.
Boys are still four times more likely than girls to receive a diagnosis, but even that statistic is under question, since girls are considered better at hiding symptoms.
“Closer to Zero.”
Not that the Food and Drug Administration is actually enforcing lower toxic metal ceilings in commercial baby foods, just recommending. The FDA pledged urgent action in an April 2021 plan called “Closer to Zero,” referring to the ideal goal of ensuring no toxic metals in baby foods. But so far, no action has been taken and new deadlines for enforcement extend to 2024 and beyond.
Of the four metals cited, only inorganic arsenic in 2016 was ever given an enforced FDA limit of 100 ppb (parts per billion) for infant rice cereal only, the same standard as adult bottled water. It stands today. Again, recommended IRLs are dropping, but they mean nothing without enforcement.
Repeat: the FDA frequently publishes revised recommended interim levels (IRLs), but manufacturers don’t have to comply with them until recommendations are enforced. The operative word is enforcement.
Moreover, the baby food industry is notorious for self-regulation. Companies decide internally what ingredients their recipes contain and how/where ingredients are sourced. Many manufacturers don’t test at all and those who do might only test separate ingredients rather than final products revealing higher levels.
A Case for Women is doing something about this now, making legal assistance accessible to any parent with a child who has consumed certain store-bought baby foods routinely as an infant or toddler and later developed autism.
Cynthia Alcott is a freelance writer contributing to A Case for Women.