Arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals are ubiquitous in the environment and essentially unavoidable in certain foods, but the presence of heavy metals in baby food can threaten the neurological development of children. Recently, a government report sounded the alarm about elevated levels of heavy metals in food intended for babies and young children. Addressing the public health concerns, federal legislation was introduced this year to establish limits for heavy metals in food, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled a strategic plan for reducing exposure to heavy metals from food.
A Congressional subcommittee report released earlier this year suggested some of the leading brands of retail baby foods contain “dangerously high levels” of arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. Initially, the report provided an opportunity for the FDA to remind companies of the preventive controls rule and the importance of considering chemical hazards when conducting a hazard analysis. Later, the public outcry from the report encouraged the agency to release its Closer to Zero Action Plan (April 8) for reducing exposure to heavy metals. The strategic action plan outlines goals for evaluating the levels of heavy metals in food and setting action levels for certain elements in food intended for babies and young children (e.g., cereals, infant formula, pureed fruits, and vegetables).
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