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April 14, 2021 -- The FDA has responded to congressional criticism and launched a multi-year plan to reduce the amount of heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic found in baby food.

Called “Closer to Zero,” the FDA plan calls for continued scientific investigation, establishes acceptable levels of heavy metals, sets up a way to monitor manufacturers’ compliance, and sets “action levels.”

“Although the FDA’s testing shows that children are not at an immediate health risk from exposure to toxic elements at the levels found in foods, we are starting the plan’s work immediately, with both short- and long-term goals for achieving continued improvements in reducing levels of toxic elements in these foods over time,” the FDA said.

However, Closer to Zero will only make recommendations on heavy metal levels.

“Although action levels are not binding, we have seen that, over the years, our guidance on action levels and other actions have contributed to significant reductions of toxic elements in food,” an FDA spokeswoman wrote in a statement, according to The Washington Post.

A congressional panel said in February that major brands of commercial baby food routinely have high levels of toxic heavy metals. The House Oversight Committee said this leaves babies at risk for serious developmental and neurological problems.

The committee sharply criticized the FDA for not taking action.

“Despite the well-known risks of harm to babies from toxic heavy metals, FDA has not taken adequate steps to decrease their presence in baby foods,” the committee said. “FDA has not issued thresholds for the vast majority of toxic heavy metals in baby foods and does not require warning labels on any baby food products.”

Show Sources

FDA: FDA Releases Action Plan for Reducing Exposure to Toxic Elements from Foods for Babies, Young Children

The Washington Post: “FDA to urge limits on heavy metals in baby foods, starting with arsenic and lead”

House Oversight Committee: “Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury”

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