There's Lead in 20 Percent of Store-Bought Baby Food, Study Finds


iStock.com/Ivanko_Brnjakovic

Parents who use store-bought baby food just got some alarming news via a report from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The nonprofit confirmed that there are detectable levels of lead in some 20 percent of baby foods on the market. If you're thinking -- wait, lead, don't they test for that because it's bad for kids? Well, you're right.

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns parents that there's no such thing as a "safe level of lead" in kids' blood, and one of its child health programs is focused specifically on reducing childhood lead exposure. Although symptoms can often remain undetected, the government agency warns "lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body."

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In fact, too much lead has been linked to everything from hearing loss to behavioral and emotional disorders in kids, which is exactly why the report from the EDF is raising major concerns. According to its findings, 20 percent of 2,164 random baby food samples had detectable levels of lead. Eight types of baby food had lead in more than 40 percent of samples.

And, per the results, the worst offenders were also some of kids' favorites: 

  • Fruit juices: 89 percent of grape juice samples contained detectable levels of lead, while the same was true for 67 percent of mixed fruit juices, 55 percent of apple juices, and 45 percent of pear juices.
  • Root vegetables: 86 percent of packaged baby food sweet potatoes and 43 percent of baby food carrots contained lead.
  • Cookies: 64 percent of Arrowroot cookies and 47 percent of teething biscuits contain lead.

In all, the EDF review surmised some 1 million children consume amounts of lead that are above the FDA's "safe" limit. But because the report is not brand-specific -- and the EDF, while well respected, is not a medical group -- there's no clear path forward for parents. Nothing has been recalled or pulled off the shelves.

That said, the FDA has released a response to the report, noting the agency is "reevaluating the analytical methods it uses for determining when it should take action with respect to measured levels of lead in particular foods, including those consumed by infants and toddlers."

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Hopefully we'll know more soon so we can stop panicking every time we reach for a teething biscuit. For now, the best thing worried parents can do is what we've done all along: Have open lines of communication with our child's pediatrician, and stay on top of blood testing for lead levels, which is considered by the CDC to be the best means of catching issues early.

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