Group Warns of Lead in Baby Food

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At very high levels, lead can kill developing brain cells or be fatal. Even low levels in blood can cause harm.

Pediatricians who weren't involved in the study noted that lead-based paint and lead-contaminated water are by far the main sources of lead affecting US children.

The Environmental Defense Fund doesn't say that parents should necessarily avoid certain products, but they do advise parents to talk to their doctors about risks of lead exposure.

The nonprofit group looked at 11 years of data collected by the Food And Drug Administration as part of the agency's Total Diet Study.

Adults are also affected by lead consumption - it's been linked to high blood pressure and kidney damage, according to the World Health Organization.

Do you know what's in your baby's food? "Baby food versions of apple and grape juices and carrots had more samples with detectable lead than the regular versions", the report says. Arrowroot cookies (64 percent of 44 samples) and teething biscuits (4 percent of 43 samples) were most often found positive.

But the researchers argue that government standards don't reflect current scientific research. The Center for Disease Control has said that low levels of lead can affect IQ and academic success.

"Unfortunately, our federal agencies have been slow to respond to that", Lowry said. "The agency is in the process of reevaluating the analytical methods it uses for determining when it should take action with respect to measured levels of lead in particular foods, including those consumed by infants and toddlers".

The levels in the foods were below what the FDA considers alarming, and the dose that a child gets depends on their overall diet and what other exposures they have.

In response to a request for comment, Gerber said that samples of its baby foods and juices "consistently fall well within the available guidance levels and meet our own strict standards". "They also work to ensure that the presence of naturally occurring minerals is minimized to the greatest extent possible to ensure the safety of their products for all consumers". More research is certainly needed. Pesticides are chemicals used to thwart insects and are often considered toxic. Eighteen percent of the baby food samples tested above 5 ppb lead, which is the amount the FDA allows in drinking water.

The FDA says the administration set a maximum daily lead intake of six micrograms, which is being reviewed, saying on its website, "lead is in food because it is in the environment and lead can not simply be removed from food". Numerous samples tested by FDA are already either lead-free (according to the limits of detection in the analyses used) or have low lead content.

Help minimize a child's lead exposure by having them eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. The authors go on to suggest that "if it were eliminated completely, we estimate the societal benefits at more than $27 billion annually".