AGs want FDA guidance on heavy metals for the baby food industry

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez and a coalition of 19 other attorneys general called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue guidance to the baby food industry regarding testing for lead and other heavy metals. The coalition sent a letter to the FDA this month as a follow up to petitions and […]

AGs want FDA guidance on heavy metals for the baby food industry

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez and a coalition of 19 other attorneys general called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue guidance to the baby food industry regarding testing for lead and other heavy metals.

The coalition sent a letter to the FDA this month as a follow up to petitions and letters sent in 2021 and 2021 regarding the same issue. 

The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy on Oversight and Reform issued a report in 2021 after finding evidence that some commercial baby foods contain toxic heavy metals including arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury.

The congressional report states that exposure to heavy metals can cause decreases in IQ, diminished future economic productivity, increased risk of future criminal and antisocial behavior in children, as well as infant neurological development and long-term brain function.

The letters and petitions from the attorneys general in 2021 and 2022 were in response to the congressional report but the letter sent this month was a response to the recall in November 2023 of a brand of applesauce manufactured for children and sold in Dollar Tree stores and on Amazon. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified 101 confirmed cases, 284 probable cases and 37 suspected cases of elevated lead and chromium exposure to individuals around the U.S. connected to the product. The individuals exposed ranged in age from 0 to 53 years old with the median age of the exposure to be one year old.

The coalition said in a news release that the apple sauce manufacturer sold the product in stores without first testing it for heavy metals. 

The FDA’s investigation into the recalled applesauce is ongoing, according to the FDA’s webpage about the incident

“FDA has no indication that this issue extends beyond these recalled products and does not have any confirmed reports of illnesses or elevated blood lead level adverse events reported for other [similar] products,” the website states.

The coalition, led by New York Attorney General Leticia James, said through the news release that heavy metals in baby food is both a public health concern but also a matter of environmental justice as children from low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by lead through exposure to lead-based paint, lead that comes from drinking water pipes and other sources. 

“It goes without saying that the discovery of lead in children’s food is alarming and completely unacceptable. The FDA must take immediate, decisive action to protect our nation’s children from this unnecessary risk,” Torrez said through the news release. “What compounds this issue is the fact that our low-income and communities of color are already bearing the brunt of exposure to lead from various sources in their environment. The presence of lead in baby food adds another layer of risk, further endangering these already vulnerable communities.”

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