Detectable heavy metal lead, found in 20% baby food samples sparking alarm

According to a new report (PDF), there were significant levels of lead found in 20 percent of baby food samples raising concerns. There have been reports in the past of paint chips or paints containing lead as well as contaminated water that can lead to lead poisoning.

The report comes from the Environmental Defense Fund that analysed federal data from last 11 years. The report says that there were detectable levels of lead in 20 percent of 2,164 baby food samples that they analysed. The commonest culprits that carried lead were grape and apple juices, root vegetables including sweet potatoes and carrots and teething biscuits.

Results showed:

  • 89% baby grape juice samples contained detectable levels of lead whereas 68% regular grape juice contains lead
  • 55% baby apple juice samples compared to 25% regular apple juice
  • 67% samples of baby mixed fruit juice
  • 45% of baby pear juice samples
  • 86% of the baby sweet potato samples
  • 44% baby carrots samples compared to 14% regular carrots samples
  • 64% baby arrowroot cookies
  • 47% teething biscuits samples contain lead.

Percentage of baby food composite samples with detectable lead in eight categories based on 2003-2013 FDA Total Diet	Study data

Percentage of composite	samples	of selected baby foods with detectable lead based on 2003-2013 FDA Total Diet Study dataThe FDA regulates that allowable levels of lead for candy is 100 parts per billion and 50 parts per billion for fruit juices.

Brands of the samples studied were not included or revealed in the report. The levels as such are not at alarming levels says the report. However the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that there are no safe levels of lead in blood of children. Lead consumption or lead poisoning can lead to problems in behaviour, attention span, development of cognitive abilities, hearing and speech development, immune system and cardiovascular system. Earlier this year another report was released by the Environmental Protection Agency that suggested that over five percent of kids take in over six micrograms per day of lead. Six micrograms is the maximum daily intake level set by the Food and Drug Administration in 1993.

Tom Neltner, Environmental Defense Fund’s chemicals policy director, who analysed the report and showed that two-thirds of toddlers were exposed to lead from food sources. After this the organization went on to look at data from the FDA’s Total Diet Study and check for lead in foods for kids.

This final report was released on Thursday 15th of June 2017. In the Total Diet Study (TDS), the FDA has monitored levels of lead in foods for several decades now. They look at 280 core foods called TDS foods. Lead testing is also performed under the Toxic Elements in Food and Foodware and Radionuclides in its Food Compliance Program.

Neltner feels that despite the fact that FDA feels that lead comes into food through contaminated soil, processing of food may also bring in the lead in food. He added that baby food is one of the most processed foods there is. Tom Neltner warned that although the levels of lead was relatively low in the baby foods but when adding up all the foods that the children were eating, the amount of lead consumed may be significant.

The Environmental Defense Fund does not mention the brands but advises that parents talk to their children’s doctors regarding lead exposure.


Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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  1. Wmc Barker Wmc Barker United States says:

    no wonder everyone has become crazy,

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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