The value of the baby food market in the United States is roughly $15 billion. Since baby food companies have such a significant revenue, many afford to engage in unethical conduct and place financial profit over the health and wellbeing of children. In 2019, the non-profit organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures found that a whacking 95% of the baby food on the American market contains at least one dangerous heavy metal – arsenic, cadmium, lead, or mercury.
This study prompted the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy to conduct a thorough investigation the following year. What the investigators found regarding the content of heavy metals in the products of four major baby food companies was unsettling. The congressional report exposing the findings of the baby food manufacturers was made public in the winter of 2021, and, understandably, it sparked outrage among parents nationwide.
To comprehend the extent of irresponsibility and carelessness of these baby food companies, let the following discoveries sink in – the maximum arsenic limit was exceeded by 91 times, the safe lead limit, by 177 times, the maximum cadmium limit, by 69 times, and the safe mercury limit, by 5 times. One company used ingredients with 886 ppb lead when the safe limit is 5 ppb. In contrast, another manufacturer allowed baby food with over 900 ppb arsenic to go on the market when the maximum limit is 10 ppb.
Ingesting Baby Food with a High Content of Heavy Metals Can Lead to Autism
Baby food companies do not intentionally add heavy metals to their products. These harmful metals end up in infant and toddler food because the crops that produce the raw ingredients absorb them from the soil and water. However, it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to ensure the finished products have a content of heavy metals below the maximum safe limit. If children are exposed to a high concentration of heavy metals by ingestion from infancy, they are at risk of developing autism. They can struggle with other neurodevelopmental disorders and problems, such as a lower IQ, cognitive damage, behavioral abnormalities, ADHD, or learning disabilities.
Children are significantly more vulnerable to the negative health impact of heavy metals because they have a higher nutrient uptake by the gastrointestinal tract and underdeveloped detoxification systems. Once inside the body, heavy metals act as neurotoxins, taking a toll on the brain and nervous system. These dangerous metals can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and reach the cerebral matter, where they will settle, possibly leading to autism if the child has other risk factors. The buildup of heavy metals in children’s bodies also generates free radicals, creating oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can damage proteins, DNA, and cells. Many children with autism share a chronic flaw in the body’s natural defenses against free radicals.
How to Lower the Content of Heavy Metals in Your Child’s Diet
Autism seems to become more and more prevalent. 1 in 44 children born after 2010 in the United States will develop the disorder, while the incidence of autism has increased by roughly 1% since 2007. For this reason, it is a wise idea to do everything you can to minimize the content of heavy metals your infant or toddler ingests. Fortunately, there are many ways to do this. The following are 6 easy and practical tips on lowering the content of heavy metals in your child’s diet.
1. Breastfeed Your Baby for as Long as Possible to Delay the Need for Baby Food
Breastmilk is the best milk for your baby, as its nutrients are unparalleled by any other first food your infant can eat. Pediatricians recommend women breastfeed for at least one year, but it is even better if you can do it for a longer time. Although over 80% of American mothers breastfeed, fewer than one-third continue to do it for one year.
Breastfeeding delays your child’s need for commercial baby food. Still, it also yields numerous benefits for their health, including a lower risk of diabetes, obesity, asthma, pulmonary infections, stomach bugs, and ear infections. Breastfeeding entails health benefits for the mother, such as a reduced risk of breast cancer, diabetes, ovarian cancer, and high blood pressure.
2. Use These Natural and Safer Food Replacements Instead of Store Baby Food
The following advice comes from the study “What’s in My Baby Food?” by Healthy Babies Bright Futures. To reduce the content of heavy metals by up to 80%, you should replace rice cereal with rice-free cereals, teething biscuits with a frozen banana, fruit juice with plain water, and sweet potatoes and carrots with a variety of other fresh produce.
3. Give Your Baby Rice Sparingly
Because rice is very high in arsenic, containing 10 to 20 more of it than other crops, it is good to feed your child rice occasionally. You should cook it in plenty of water when you prepare it, which you should drain off when the meal is ready. Another tip is to use basmati or sushi rice instead of regular rice, as these kinds usually contain less arsenic.
4. Feed Your Toddler Only Certain Fish
Fish is a high-quality source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids, so you should by no means avoid feeding it to your child as long as you choose a healthy and safe option. The fish with the lowest mercury content includes anchovies, pollock, mullet, flounder, plaice, haddock, and salmon. The ones you should avoid it is the following: king mackerel, orange roughy, ling, fresh tuna, swordfish, marlin, tilefish, and northern pike.
5. Make Baby Food at Home
How can you be more confident about what the food you give your baby contains than if you cook it yourself? There are millions of recipes you can find online for each child’s growth stage, and many take just a few minutes to prepare. Some of the baby food you can make at home are fruit and vegetable purees, rice cereal, porridge, beets and blueberry mash, spinach with white yams, and beef stew.
6. Request Products Through the Toxic Baby Food Replacement Initiative
The Toxic Baby Food Replacement Initiative is a relatively new program by which parents nationwide can request safe, non-toxic baby food made by ethical, responsible companies. Whatever product you need, the team behind the campaign most likely has it for you and will send it to you after you fill out the form at the bottom of the page.
About the Author
Jonathan Sharp is Chief Financial Officer at Environmental Litigation Group, PC. The law firm, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, specializes in toxic exposure. Its attorneys and legal team assist parents whose children developed autism due to being fed toxic baby food, among many other diverse clients.