Jan. 25, 2023 – The FDA is asking baby food manufacturers to reduce the amount of lead in products by 25%.
Lead affects brain development in young children and can impact intelligence, as well as cause behavior and learning disorders. Children under 2 are particularly sensitive to exposure because their bodies are so small and they are developing rapidly.
“Although it is not possible to remove these elements entirely from the food supply, we expect that the recommended action levels will cause manufacturers to implement agricultural and processing measures to lower lead levels in their food products below the proposed action levels,” the FDA explained in a statement on Tuesday.
The changes apply to packaged foods intended for children under age 2, such as jars, pouches, tubs, and boxes. Lead limits for most products will be 10 parts per billion, although twice that amount will be allowed for single-ingredient root vegetables and for dry cereals.
The effort is part of the agency’s ongoing campaign to reduce dietary exposure to harmful substances. Lead sources in food include contaminated soil or water where crops are grown, lead in the air from industrial activities, and lead in food processing equipment.
In its guidance to manufacturers, the FDA says other efforts to reduce lead could include thoroughly peeling root vegetables, thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables, sourcing products known to have lower lead levels, increased lead testing, and inspecting facilities and equipment.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also offers parents these tips for reducing their children’s dietary exposure to lead:
- Offer a variety of foods, because different foods have different lead levels. And read ingredients, because sometimes, the first ingredient listed is the same for many foods and may be different than the flavor on the package.
- Test your tap water regularly, especially if you have well water.
- Avoid fruit juice, which can have higher metal levels than baby foods.