On February 4, 2021 a congressional report identified that baby foods from leading manufacturers contained levels of heavy metals that exceeded what experts say are permissible. These metals included arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. Heavy metal exposure can be harmful to brain development and has been linked to problems with learning, cognition, and behavior. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Environmental Health has shared the following information:
Heavy metals are naturally found in the Earth’s crust. They can be released in the water and soil used to grow food. They can also be introduced into foods during packaging and processing.
How to reduce your baby’s exposure to heavy metals:
- Serve a variety of food to lower your baby’s exposure to metal contaminants that may be present in some foods.
- Offer multiple types of grains, there is more than just rice! Rice tends to absorb more arsenic from groundwater than other crops. If you are making rice from scratch, rinse it first. White basmati and sushi rice tends to have lower levels of arsenic opposed to brown rice which tends to have higher levels. Offer other grains such as oat, barley, couscous, quinoa, farro, and bulgur.
- Avoid fruit juices and offer sliced or pureed fruits instead. As a bonus, you would also be avoiding added sugars that are often present in juices.
- Make healthy fish choices. Fish is an excellent source of vital nutrients for kids and adults alike. However, some fish can contain high level of mercury and other metals. Fish that eat other fish can accumulate mercury. Avoid large predatory fish such as shark, swordfish, orange roughy, albacore and white tuna. Instead offer fish that are lower in mercury such as salmon, cod, whitefish, and pollock.
- Consider making your own baby food. This may sound like a daunting task but making your own baby food can be easy and is cost effective. It also allows you to skip the processing and packaging step which avoids potential contaminants. I love to blend different food combination to make purees. I then freeze them in silicon ice cube trays and thaw them to order.
What about organic baby foods?
Unfortunately, organic foods can contain the same amount of heavy metals as non-organic foods. This is because heavy metals are found in the soil in which both organic and non-organic foods are grown. Heavy metals can also enter food through packaging and processing. Organic foods have the advantage of containing less pesticides but this does not significantly affect the level of heavy metals.
Should may baby be tested for heavy metal exposure?
Baby’s are routinely tested for lead at 1 and 2 years of age. Otherwise, at this time it is not recommended that children get tested for heavy metals.
If you are concerned about heavy metal exposures in your child, please talk with us. We would be happy to address any concerns that you may have.