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Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury

We have received many calls this week concerning the Oversight Committee's report about baby foods and dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury found in commercially prepared baby food.  This was reported to the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Committee on Oversight and Reform U.S. House of Representatives
on February 4, 2021.

Normally we suggest beginning baby foods slowly between 4 and 6 months of age depending on the nutritional needs and physical readiness of your infant.  Usually we start with cereals because they are easy to digest and are iron fortified.  Formula fed infants get iron from their formula.  Breast milk does not contain iron.  Iron is important for brain development and the formation of red blood cells.  Typical cereals are barley, oats and rice.  Rice cereal has been found to contain arsenic thus we do not suggest only offering rice, but trying to offer variety. (The white rice and brown rice that you eat also contains arsenic.  This is one of the reasons that it is suggested to rinse your rice many times before making it).  We suggest following cereals with vegetables. We usually suggest  yellow first  because it has a higher glycemic index (it tastes sweeter) so most infants are attracted to the flavor and are willing to eat it.  Each new food item should be given for 3-5 days before progressing to a new food.  After your baby has tried a variety of vegetables you can begin fruits, followed by higher protein foods which are meats and fish. Should you be concerned about the recent study showing high levels of heavy metals and arsenic in rice and prepared baby foods?  The answer is of course we are all concerned about this type of information.  Unfortunately in an industrialized society pesticides and pollutants are in our waters that irrigate crops and that gets into our food.  Is it better to prepare your own food?  It is hard to know if the food we eat has the same metals.  You would assume that the same growers that sell raw ingredients to the major baby food producers also sell their raw goods to the major grocery stores.  Just because something is labeled organic does not mean that the water used to irrigate the crops is pollutant free.  Organic means that no additional pesticides were sprayed on the growing product.  There could be bad stuff in the water too.  The Food and Drug Administration at least is watching the baby food industry--who is watching the food you buy at the market? I used to make my son's food when possible.  I would just puree or chop up finely steamed vegetables, fruits and fish and then put portions in ice cube trays until frozen.  I would vary the texture from fine to coarse.  Once frozen I would move the food to plastic baggies and keep them frozen for use later.  The frozen food defrosts quickly and can be warmed easily.  That way if you go through the effort of preparing food, you at least have several meals for the future. The only way that you can guarantee the purity of food is by knowing the condition of the soil and the water used to help it grow--these are big unknowns currently.  Just think of Mahi Pono growing all the crops in old sugar cane land.  They are growing "organic" food, but we all know what has been in that soil for years (plastics, pesticides etc.) Hope that answers your questions.   Here is a link to the original report if you are interested in looking at the data:

https://oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/2021-02-04%20ECP%20Baby%20Food%20Staff%20Report.pdf

Here is another summarization of the situation:

https://www.healio.com/news/primary-care/20210210/qa-government-report-says-top-baby-foods-contain-toxic-metals?utm_source=selligent&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news&M_BT=4543281072242

Dr. Baum

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