Homemade infant food has as much harmful metal as store-bought, report finds, According to a new analysis exclusive to CNN, making baby food at home with store-bought fruit will not lessen the quantity of dangerous heavy metals in the food your baby eats.
Research director for Healthy Babies, Bright Futures, and coauthor of the report Jane Houlihan found no indication that homemade baby foods made from store-bought fruit were safer from heavy metal contamination. The HBBF, an organization composed of organizations, scientists, and donors, is responsible for the report and has made it its mission to lower infants’ exposure to neurotoxic chemicals.
Grains, fruits, vegetables, snacks, teething foods, and household products that babies eat like cereals and rice cakes were among the 288 items analyzed for lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium at supermarkets and farmers’ markets across the United States. The World Health Organization lists those heavy metals as one of the top 10 substances of concern for children and newborns.
“The effects of toxic metals on the developing brain have been well documented. Issues with learning, cognition, and conduct have all been associated with it “…the American Academy of Pediatrics says.
Investigators also reviewed information from 7,000 additional food safety tests that were reported in studies and by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Ninety-four percent of commercial infant foods, family foods, and homemade purees produced from purchased raw foods were found to have measurable quantities of one or more heavy metals.
Consumers who purchased infant food for the investigation found lead in 90% of the manufactured variety, as well as in 80% of the family cuisine and homemade purees they purchased. According to the AAP, lead exposure can never be considered safe.
Arsenic was detected in 68% of baby food purchased from stores and 72% of family food eaten out or cooked at home. Shop-bought infant food tested positive for cadmium in 65% of samples, while 60% of family foods tested positive for it, and 10% of store-bought foods tested positive for mercury in 10% of samples. (The analysis did not include seafood, which typically contains the greatest levels of mercury.)
This analysis is a follow-up to one published by Healthy Babies, Bright Futures in November 2019; in that report, they analyzed the quality of 168 baby food products from leading brands. Ninety-five percent of commercially available baby food tested positive for lead, along with 73% for arsenic, 75% for cadmium, and 32% for mercury. About a quarter of the foods examined that year had detectable levels of all four metals.
“After that story, we heard so many people suggesting you can get around this difficulty by producing your own baby food at home, so we decided to check,” Houlihan added. Since heavy metals are pervasive environmental pollutants, we anticipated finding them in a wide variety of foods. Indeed, we discovered that heavy metals were present in products throughout the supermarket “That’s what Houlihan had to say. This suggests that the FDA should look beyond the baby food aisle when establishing limits for heavy metals in infant formula.
For a parent or caretaker, what options exist? Dr. Mark Corkins, chair of the Committee on Nutrition of the American Academy of Pediatrics, advises parents to introduce their infants to a wide variety of foods as soon as feasible. His participation in the research was optional.
Corkins argues that food toxicity can be reduced through “spreading foods out” and providing a diverse menu. And that’s the method to extract the most micronutrients out of the food you eat, nutritionally speaking.
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Does supporting organic agriculture help?
Corkins, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, said the report’s finding that purchasing organic did not reduce heavy metal levels was “not stunning or surprising.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s organic or regular farming methods because it’s the soil and water that’s contaminated with arsenic and other heavy metals,” Corkins said. If the soil has not been tested and shown to be metal-free, then it is not safe to grow food there.
Dr. Leonardo Trasande, director of environmental pediatrics at NYU Langone Health, noted that buying organic can help prevent chemicals like herbicides and pesticides that were not taken into account in the current findings. His participation in the research was optional.
Organic food reduces exposure to synthetic pesticides, which are “as dangerous for babies, if not more troublesome,” according to Trasande.
“Many studies have shown that prenatal exposure to synthetic pesticides negatively impacts children’s brain development and cognitive ability. Images of the brain have shown us that after being exposed, certain regions get smaller even though they are essential for higher order functioning “Moreover, he said. The first step would be to just recommend organic food since it is beneficial regardless of the topic of this study.
Toxins in baby foods are a serious problem, and experts agree that government agencies should take the lead in combating them by working with farmers, suppliers, and manufacturers to establish laws and safety precautions. Parents have the power to influence their children’s development in the meantime.
“Making even one easy choice every day to limit a child’s exposure will make an impact,” Houlihan said. “This might be as simple as deciding not to provide carrots and sweet potatoes every day or avoiding rice-based snacks in favor of serving diced apple instead.”
She also noted that “the hazards stack up over a lifetime” when exposed to heavy metals and other pollutants. “For this reason, it would still be beneficial to begin eliminating certain foods after a child’s second birthday in order to reduce their overall exposure to toxins. Each decision is vital.”
the safest things to eat
Heavy metal contamination in foods with minimal metal concentration was found to be just one-eighth that in meals with the highest levels, according to Houlihan’s testing. The report recommended that people “consume liberally” these foods.
The analysis found that fresh bananas had the lowest levels of heavy metal contamination (just 1.8% PPB). The analysis found that the average amount of heavy metals was 147 parts per billion in the most polluted item, rice cakes.
After bananas, the foods with the fewest parasites were grits, processed meats for infants, butternut squash, lamb, apples, pig, eggs, oranges, and watermelon. The survey also revealed that green beans, peas, cucumbers, and soft or pureed home-cooked meats had lower levels of contamination than other foods.
It was suggested that infant formula be prepared with water from the tap that had not been exposed to lead. Using lead-free water from the tap is always a safe bet. For infants older than 12 months, milk is a healthy option.
Snacks that are low in metal content and healthful for newborns include yogurt, unsweetened applesauce, beans, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and grapes that have been cut lengthwise.
You might also use fresh or frozen fruit to make homemade purees. However, fresh or frozen fruits are preferable to canned ones, since “Tests show lead 30 times more commonly in canned fruit than in fresh and frozen fruit,” the paper states.
The paper also suggested that parents and caregivers should reduce their infant’s exposure to heavy metals by making some substitutes.
The survey found that the total intake of heavy metals may be reduced by 95% if a baby who is teething used a frozen banana instead of a teething cookie or rice rusk made from rice. Cucumber spears, once peeled and chilled, are yet another recommended teething remedy.
Do your best to minimize or eliminate these foods from your diet.
Foods made with rice were the most likely to be contaminated and hence fed to infants. Inorganic arsenic, the more dangerous type of arsenic, is found in high concentrations in rice products such as rice cakes, rice puffs, crisped rice cereals, and brown rice that has not had its cooking water drained.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that can be found in soil, water, and air; because rice is a hydroponically cultivated crop, it is highly efficient at absorbing inorganic arsenic. (The term “inorganic” refers to a chemical process and has nothing to do with agriculture.) Arsenic is most concentrated in the bran of brown and wild rice.
There is evidence that a baby’s brain development can be negatively affected by even minimal exposure to inorganic arsenic. Children between the ages of 5 and 15 who had arsenic levels in their urine that were increased by 50% were found to have an average IQ drop of 0.4 points.
Rice cakes, crisped rice cereal, rice-based puffs, and brown rice all tested higher for inorganic arsenic than other rice-based foods tested by HBBF. According to the article, you should stay far away from foods like brown rice unless you cook it in a lot of water and then drain it (much like pasta). According to the analysis, this is the greatest method for reducing arsenic levels in all types of rice by up to 60%.
The survey also found that white rice and rice-based teething biscuits or rusks were among the most contaminated foods. Even if the bran and germ are removed during the milling process that produces white rice, the arsenic content is still high enough to cause worry, according to experts.
“In our studies, white rice infant cereal had 74 parts per billion of inorganic arsenic and brown rice infant cereal had 100 parts per billion,” Houlihan added. The elevated arsenic levels in brown rice cereal caused baby food manufacturers to pull it from shelves.
The report recommends that parents and caregivers steer clear of rice cultivated in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas (or the “US”) due to its high arsenic content, and instead choose for basmati rice from California, India, or Pakistan, or American-grown sushi rice, which has reduced arsenic levels.
Only occasionally eat these things.
Heavy metals were discovered in the highest concentrations in rice and rice-based foods, followed by raisins, non-rice teething crackers, granola bars with raisins, and oat-ring cereals. Those weren’t the only foods causing worry, though. The survey found that many common foods, including dried fruit, grape juice, arrowroot teething crackers, and sunflower seed butter, all have excessive quantities of at least one harmful metal.
Heavy metals can be found in a wide variety of foods, as Houlihan put it. Examples of foods with alarmingly high cadmium levels include spinach, leaf lettuce, and peanut butter.
Cadmium, however, is not readily absorbed by the human body like certain other heavy metals are, so “it doesn’t have as high a level of concern,” Houlihan said.
She said, “There’s also not as much proof that cadmium is neurotoxic to babies,” meaning the body of data isn’t as strong as it is with lead and arsenic. It’s a serious concern since lead and arsenic poisoning can have long-lasting effects on intelligence, memory, and behavior.
Heavy metals like lead and arsenic are often found in higher concentrations in foods grown underground, which includes many types of root and tuber crops. Carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and several varieties of potatoes were all found to have levels of heavy metals that were cause for concern, despite their reputation as healthy foods for infants.
According to the analysis, various concentrations of hazardous metals might be found in the same meal. For example a buyer in Raleigh, North Carolina, bought sweet potato puree from the store, but the sweet potatoes themselves contained 60.7 parts per billion of lead. The study revealed that a Chicago woman bought a fresh carrot that contained eight times as much arsenic as the prepackaged carrot baby food she took home.
Contrarily, consumers in the states of Tennessee and California discovered that their locally grown produce contained far lower levels of heavy metals than the commercial baby food brands they purchased.
Houlihan remarked, “As a parent, you don’t know what you’re picking up out of the produce bin.” “Is it more than usual due to the cultivar, like a specific kind of sweet potato or carrot? Or perhaps it has a higher concentration because it is grown in a region with high levels of lead in the soil.
Houlihan suggested that government regulators and businesses would be responsible for answering these questions. There is a Closer to Zero effort run by the FDA that could tackle this issue.
CNN has contacted the FDA for comment but has not heard back as of this writing.
“It’s important to remember that protecting the basic components parents use to prepare food at home safeguards not only infants and toddlers but also pregnant women. Because their brains are developing so quickly, unborn children are especially susceptible to the effects of pollutants.”
Houlihan argued that parents and caregivers should take extra precautions because they have no idea how much hazardous metals may be present in the soil in which their children’s food was grown. Parents can “select new brands or varieties of meals or purchase in different places from week to week to avoid choosing a high-metal source repeatedly” in addition to feeding a wide variety of foods and switching up the menu on a daily basis.