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FDA should monitor baby food for toxic heavy metals, Schumer says

Sen. Charles Schumer, (D-New York), standing in front

Sen. Charles Schumer, (D-New York), standing in front of a Buy Buy Baby store in the Chelsea section of Manhattan on Sunday.  At left, Michael Akavan holds his 6-week-old daughter, Summer. Credit: Newsday/Ted Phillips

Stricter regulations are needed to protect babies against toxic heavy metals that a new study shows were in many baby foods, Sen. Chuck Schumer.

“Parents across the land should be worried about teaching their children ABCs, not worried about what's in their baby's food,” Schumer (D-New York) said at a news conference in front of a Buy Buy Baby store in the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan. “But now they have to worry because we're sitting on our hands.”

A study published last week by Healthy Babies Bright Futures found that when they tested 168 containers of baby food across the country that 95% of them had at least one toxic heavy metal. The study, called “What’s in my baby’s food,” tested for lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury which have been linked to problems in brain development. The study found that 25% of food containers tested showed traces of all four heavy metals.

“We're calling on the FDA to act ASAP,” Schumer said. “They should investigate this new report and finally get a move on something they said they'd do two and a half years ago, which is [to] study toxic toxicity of metals in baby food and take preventative action.”

Spokespersons for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration did not return requests for comment on Sunday.

Healthy Babies Bright Futures describes itself on its website as an alliance of nonprofits that work to reduce infants’ exposure to neurotoxic chemicals.

Some of the metals are naturally occurring and others can be found at elevated levels in fields contaminated by pesticides, fertilizers and other pollutants, according to the study. The report suggests that parents reduce their babies’ exposure to heavy metals by choosing alternative foods.

The study found that rice-based foods presented the greatest risk to children under 2 years old and nearly always contained all four heavy metals for which they tested. The study suggested rice-free snacks, multigrain cereals or oatmeal, and frozen bananas or chilled cucumbers as alternatives to rice based infant foods.

In 2016, the FDA announced it was taking steps to reduce the intake of arsenic from infant rice cereal by proposing a limit of 100 parts per billion of organic arsenic. The study found that all but one of seven infant rice cereals tested exceeded that proposed limit

The study also suggested substituting tap water for fruit juice and adding a variety of vegetables to reduce exposure from carrots and sweet potatoes that retain more heavy metals than most other fruits and vegetables.

Switching to organic food won’t affect babies’ exposure, the study said, because organic standards don’t address the four heavy metals.

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