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Heavy Metals in Baby Food? Your Top Questions Answered by Our Neonatal Nutritionist

 

Today on the blog our Neonatal Nutritionist Priscilla Barr gives us her take on the recent news about heavy metals being found in most store bought baby foods, how to protect your little one, and how Tiny's standard is different.

The recent congressional report release can be a cause of concern for many parents, especially since the brains of babies and toddlers are still growing and developing and thus are especially sensitive to the effects of these neurotoxic compounds. High heavy metal exposure can impact their brain development, leading to learning and behavioral issues.

So why is this happening? Heavy metals are present in our environment, and can contaminate our food supply through the soil, water, and air. The FDA says that because these elements occur in the environment, they cannot be completely avoided in the fruits, vegetables, or grains that are the basis for baby foods or by consumers who make their own foods 

However it’s important to keep in mind that the level of the heavy metal is what matters here. 

While completely avoiding heavy metals 100% is difficult since it comes from our environment, there are things you can do to reduce your little ones exposure!   

Choose a Variety of Foods for Your Little One’s Diet

Since heavy metals can be found in certain food items, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents choose a variety of grains and foods to serve children to reduce their heavy metal exposure.  Serving the same food every day, especially a food found higher in heavy metals, can increase your little ones risk of consuming heavy metals. Not only is serving different types of foods beneficial for reducing the risk of heavy metal exposure, but it can increase the nutrients they consume, is better for their health, and can expose them to more flavors and textures leading to a better chance for long term acceptance of foods and reduced picky eating!

Tiny’s mission is to give your baby a variety of food items, introducing them to their first 100 flavors. At Tiny many different vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains are used in the recipes to ensure your little one has a wonderful variety of foods, flavors, and nutrients to help them grow and thrive!

Serve a Variety of Grains and Choose your Rice Wisely

In testing of rice, it has been found to be contaminated with arsenic.  While the AAP doesn’t say rice has to be avoided in infants or young children, they do recommend giving a variety of grains and foods to reduce overall exposure to rice and arsenic, and give tips on how to reduce the arsenic content of any rice you do serve, including cooking it in excess water. The source of the rice also matters, as the same type of rice found in different areas of the country have been shown to have varying concentrations of arsenic. This makes sense as the arsenic contamination in rice comes from the environment, and different regions would have different levels of contamination versus others.

At Tiny Organics, rice is used in small quantities in any recipe and is carefully sourced from California farms, which have been shown to have lower levels of arsenic vs others areas of the country such as the south central states. In the cooking process, Tiny follows the guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics and scientific research to reduce arsenic loads, by rinsing the rice and boiling it in excess water to reduce any heavy metal contaminants any further.  In addition, testing is done on finished products on a regular basis to ensure safety of the product.

Look for baby foods without contaminated additives

The US House’s (ECP) report found that heavy metals were found in baby food additives such as enzymes and vitamin and mineral mixes. Enzymes are used in processed foods as processing agents, to help break the food down. 

Tiny Organics is committed to not using additives in their foods. Since our meals use whole foods and are not processed, no enzyme additives are utilized.  Tiny also is committed to picking nutrient dense ingredients that are naturally full of vitamins and minerals, so additional vitamins and minerals additives aren’t added either. This all helps reduce the risk for additional heavy metal contamination.

Look for companies that test the final products, not just ingredients

Many baby food companies, according to the US House’s ECP 2021 report, were testing ingredients in baby food but not the final baby food product. According to the ECP, testing ingredients before production is not accurate as they found that the levels found in the finished baby food had much higher levels than the companies had estimated based on testing the individual ingredients, and they recommend that final product testing be mandatory for all baby food manufacturers. At Tiny Organics, finished products are tested on a regular basis to ensure the safety of our products and doesn't rely on the testing of individual ingredients

The Bottom Line: Heavy metals are a concern as high levels can impact your infant and child's brain development. However there are things you can do to reduce exposure, including serving a variety of foods, changing up your grains (instead of just serving rice), sourcing and preparing your rice wisely, looking for whole food items without contaminated additives, and purchasing baby food from companies that test their final products. Tiny Organics is committed to these practices to ensure safety, and is dedicated to improving infant and toddler nutrition, helping your little one achieve the healthiest start possible.

Take a look at our menu here.

References

  1. US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Committee on Oversight and Reform.  2021, Feb 4.  Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury.  Staff Report.  Retrieved from https://oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/2021-02-04%20ECP%20Baby%20Food%20Staff%20Report.pdf
  2. Miguel Rodríguez-Barranco et al.  Association of Arsenic, Cadmium and Manganese Exposure with Neurodevelopment and Behavioural Disorders in Children: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.  Sci Total Environ 2013 Jun 1;454-455:562-77.
  3. Philippe Grandjean and Philip J. Landrigan. Neurobehavioural Effects of Developmental Toxicity.  Lancet Neurol 2014 Mar;13(3):330-8
  4. US Food and Drug Administration.  FDA Response to Questions About Levels of Toxic Elements in Baby Food, Following Congressional Report.  2021, Feb 16. 

Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/cfsan-constituent-updates/fda-response-questions-about-levels-toxic-elements-baby-food-following-congressional-report

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics.  Heavy Metals in Baby Food.  2021, Feb 10.  Found in https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Metals-in-Baby-Food.aspx
  2. Food and Drug Administration.  Analytical Results from Inorganic Arsenic in Rice and Rice Products Sampling.  September 2013.  Retrieved at https://www.fda.gov/files/food/published/Analytical-Results-from-Inorganic-Arsenic-in-Rice-and-Rice-Products-Sampling-%28PDF%29-May-2013.pdf
  3. Williams PN, et al.  Market basket survey shows elevated levels of As in South Central U.S. processed rice compared to California: consequences for human dietary exposure.  Environ Sci Technol.  2007 Apr 1;41(7):2178-83
  4. Atiaga O, et al.  Effect of cooking on arsenic concentration in rice

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2020 Apr;27(10):10757-10765