And you thought your baby food should be safe. Well…..not quite.

by Dr. Alan Kadish NMD

Let’s cut to the chase… Should your baby be eating a mix of toxic chemicals ? Unfortunately they probably are and it’s considered acceptable by our government…they meets the current standards.

The Clean Label Project, a non-profit organization took 530 baby food products and analysed the contents.

60% of products claiming to be “BPA free” tested positive for the industrial chemical bisphenol A

~80% of infant formula samples tested positive for arsenic

65% of products tested positive for arsenic,

36% for lead,

58% for cadmium 

10% for acrylamide

This disturbing news which is not acceptable. At the Center of Health we also ran a laboratory evaluation for arsenic in 2010 of 4 baby food rice products. Same results. All were very high and not within acceptable consumption limits. 

With that said what’s a parent to do…..

  1. Purchase fresh food and prepare it yourself
  2. Soak your rice overnight before cooking and rinse well (arsenic is water soluble)
  3. If you purchase commercial products ask the brands for additional proof of testsing

Who said parenting is easy and one can trust that our tax dollars are indeed buying us some level of safety ?

Veuer’s Natasha Abellard has the story. Buzz6

  1. A new study shows that a majority of baby foods, including 80% of formulas tested positive for arsenic and other chemicals.

Correction and Clarifications: This story has been updated to reflect how the Clean Label Project is funded.

An alarming study released Wednesday found many baby food products test positive for arsenic, including 80% of infant formulas. And, that’s not the only dangerous contaminate found.

The Clean Label Project, a nonprofit advocating for transparent labeling, tested baby food, infant formulas, toddler drinks and snacks purchased within the past 5 months. The group, which did not publish findings in a peer-reviewed journal, looked at top-selling formulas and baby food using Nielsen data, and also included emerging national brands. After about 530 baby food products were tested, researchers found 65% of products tested positive for arsenic, 36% for lead, 58% for cadmium and 10% for acrylamide. All of these chemicals pose potential dangers to developing infants.

Jennifer Lowry, pediatrician and toxicologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., who is not affiliated with the research, said these chemicals can affect fine motor skills and cognition.

Mainstream brands including Gerber, Enfamil, Plum Organics and Sprout were among the worst offenders — scoring two out of five in the Clean Label Project’s report card for toxic metals. Plus, 60% of products claiming to be “BPA free” tested positive for the industrial chemical bisphenol A. The quantities of contaminates range, but some products tested positive for up to 600 parts of arsenic per billion. That’s far more than just trace amounts.

Arsenic was the most common contaminate spotted in the Clean Label Project study. Nearly 80% of infant formula samples tested positive for arsenic. The toxin is associated with developmental defects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, diabetes and even cancer, according to the World Health Organization.

Jaclyn Bowen, executive director of Clean Label Project and a food safety scientist, said rice-based baby food such as snack puffs had some of the highest levels of arsenic.

In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion of arsenic in infant rice cereal, but isn’t enforcing that limit. Rice often absorbs arsenic from contaminated soil as it grows in the environment.

“It is important for consumers to understand that some contaminants, such as heavy metals like lead or arsenic, are in the environment and cannot simply be removed from food,” Peter Cassell, a FDA spokesperson.

Lead, also found in food tested by the Clean Label Project, has been found in baby food before. Just a few months ago, the Environmental Defense Fund found 20% of 2,164 baby food samples tested contained lead. No amount of lead is safe.

Low levels of lead in children’s blood have been connected to lower IQs, slowed growth, behavioral problems, hearing issues and anemia, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Clean Label Project posted a list of products it tested, along with a star-rating grade informed by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, on its website. Bowen said she hopes the data helps parents become better advocates for their children’s health, and creates change in the baby food business.

The Clean Label Project gets its funding from grants, donations and its certification program.

“The baby industry needs to do a better job in protecting America’s most vulnerable population,” Bowen said.

Gerber, Mead Johnson (Enfamil), Plum Organics and Sprout all released statements following the study assuring customers their products adhere to strict safety standards. Gerber said its foods “meet or exceed U.S. government standards for quality and safety.” Mead Johnson said it specifically monitors the presence of many materials, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, BPA and acrylamide to ensure “safety and high quality.” Plum, who also stressed products are “completely safe,” said over the past year, it’s created “new, more robust guidelines for contaminants in our products” and is in the process of implementing those rules. Sprout said it is already “fully compliant with the new FDA food labeling requirements that don’t take effect until 2020.”

Toxic Baby Food: A Look Beyond the Labels

A recent news story [1] reports that the Clean Label Project, a non-profit organization focused on health and transparency in consumer product labeling, tested 530 baby food products for toxic elements and chemicals. The results were not good.

Sixty-five percent of products tested “positive” for arsenic, 36% for lead, 58% for cadmium, and the tests even showed high levels of BPA in “BPA Free” products. These toxins are harmful to infants (and adults), and can lead to developmental delays and permanent damage to the brain, kidneys, liver, bladder, and many other organs in the body. Arsenic and cadmium are known carcinogens while lead, a damaging neurotoxin, accumulates in bone and is released back into the bloodstream when bones develop (a continuous source of exposure) [2].

All toxin exposure should be limited, especially during infancy and childhood when the brain and other organ development is at its most sensitive.

Reviewing the “Proof”

It’s important to know whether the amounts this project found in baby food are at a level higher than expected or at levels that are hazardous when ingested.

The first thing I do when I read an article like this is look for proof. What are their testing methods? How did they analyze the samples? Did they look at total levels of toxins, or speciate the samples? Is the work peer reviewed? Do the authors have something to gain from the study?

In this project, the samples were tested by a third-party laboratory. Their element testing was done by Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS), which is what we use for element testing at ZRT Laboratory. However, their detection limits are very high in comparison to ours, which brings up the question as to how sensitive their testing is.

No one wants to have metals in their foods, but the reality is that trace amounts of metals are found in lots of foods. It is therefore important to know whether the amounts that this project found in the baby food are at a level higher than expected or at levels that have been found to be hazardous when ingested.

Unfortunately, the project isn’t sharing this information. This study is also not published by a peer-reviewed journal where the authors would be expected to answer these questions.

ICP-MS Element Detection Limits
Clean Label Project (Food) ZRT Laboratory (Urine/Blood)
Lead  4 ppb* 0.02 ppb
Arsenic 4 ppb 0.3 ppb
Mercury 2 ppb 0.05 ppb
Cadmium 2 ppb 0.08 ppb

*ppb = Parts per Billion

Practical Ways to Cope with Toxin Exposure

We are exposed to toxins every day. For the most part it is unavoidable, but making smart lifestyle choices for yourself or your loved ones can help reduce exposure.

The only true way to tell if you are currently being exposed to toxins, or have been exposed to them in the past, is to test for their presence in blood and/or urine.

Making sure the water you drink is free of contaminants and understanding where toxins come from is most important, as it helps you avoid products that can be dangerous. For example, rice takes up arsenic and cadmium from the water in paddy fields, so limiting consumption of rice products will reduce exposure to these toxins [3]. Choosing products that are routinely tested for toxins is smart, too, but these options are not always available – which is the Clean Label Project’s entire mission.

The only true way to tell if you are currently being exposed to toxins, or have been exposed to them in the past, is to test for their presence in blood and/or urine. There is no way to test all the foods we eat, or eliminate exposure from toxins completely. One batch of food may be completely different from the next, or the source of the food may change. Even the time of the year can affect toxin concentration.

ZRT offers a blood spot element test, which is ideal for looking at toxins like lead and organic mercury. We also offer a dried urine element test that provides the best assessment of total arsenic, cadmium, and inorganic mercury. We also test essential elements like selenium and zinc, which are known to help prevent or reduce the toxicity as a result of heavy metal exposure.

Learn more about why sample type matters when testing elements.

Don’t Jump to Conclusons without Facts

Independent reviews like the one on baby food by the Clean Label Project can be helpful in making smart food choices, but it is important to separate good science from bad. In this case, without knowing who did the testing, what the test results were, or how food products were rated, I would recommend caution in drawing any firm conclusions.

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Dr. Kadish is an unusual physician often referred to as a "doctor detective". His expertise is the evaluation and treatment of complex disorders, typically after other physicians have been stumped, is renowned. He provides care for all family members and has additional training in autistic spectrum disorders and chronic complex diseases.