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Regulating Heavy Metals in Baby Food: The Challenges of the FDA and Food Manufacturers Being on the Same Page

Speaking in July 2021 at the online symposium, Advances in Food & Beverage Analysis, Rob Thomas, Principal of Scientific Solutions presented his talk on heavy metals in baby food.

Abstract: A recent report put out by the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Committee on Oversight and Reform of the US House of Representatives found that processed baby foods from seven of the largest manufacturers are tainted with dangerous levels of arsenic (As), lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), and mercury (Hg) (1). The report was based on information the subcommittee requested for internal documents from these companies in November 2019, following an investigation alleging high levels of toxic heavy metals in both organic and conventional processed baby food cereals in 2018.

Not all food companies responded to the request, but for those who did, it was a very critical condemnation of the way they went about testing their products that relied mainly on sampling the raw materials used including grains, cereals, rice, vegetables and fruits, but very few of them actually tested the final products that went on supermarket shelves. Based on the report, it was clear that the companies had very little concern about the elevated levels of heavy metals in their products and in many cases ignored their own internal testing limits. This presentation will take a closer look at the congressional report and in particular, its recommendations to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce heavy metals in baby food to acceptable levels within two years. It will also take deeper dive into the challenges and practicalities of scrutinizing the food industry that has historically been allowed to regulate itself.