After the analysis, the Consumer Reports scientists conclude that:
- 15 of the foods would pose ”potential health risks” if a child ate one serving or less every day.
- Snacks and products with rice or sweet potatoes were more likely than other foods to have high levels of the heavy metals. White rice had lower levels than brown.
- Organic foods were as likely as nonorganic to have high levels of heavy metals.
Here are the 15 foods that Consumer Reports recommends limiting to less than a serving a day:
- Earth’s Best Organic Chicken & Brown Rice
- Earth’s Best Turkey, Red Beans and Brown Rice
- Gerber Chicken &Rice
- Gerber Turkey & Rice
- Sprout Organic Baby Food Garden Vegetables Brown Rice with Turkey
- Gerber Lil’ Meals White Turkey Stew with Rice & Vegetables
- Gerber Carrot, Pear & Blackberry
- Gerber Carrots Peas & Corn with Lil’ Bits
- Plum Organics Just Sweet Potato Organic Baby Food
- Beech-Nut Classics Sweet Potatoes
- Earth’s Best Organic Sweet Potatoes, 1st Stage
- Earth’s Best Organic Whole Grain Rice Cereal
- Earth’s Best Organic Sunny Days Snack Bars, Strawberry
- Happy Bab Organics Superfood Puffs, Apple & Broccoli
- Happy Baby Organics Superfood Puffs, Purple Carrot & Blueberry
Advice for Parents
The message, Dickerson says, is not to be alarmed but to think “balance, balance, balance” when it comes to a child’s diet. “If you happen to be giving them a lot of rice-based products, mix in oats or wheat. The idea is balance, not overemphasizing any one particular grain or food.”
“Back off on snack foods,” as most of those products contain rice, he says.
Who’s Watching the Levels?
“There exists no regulatory guidance on what levels are acceptable,” Dickerson says. But the FDA is working on it. “In 2016, the FDA did propose limiting inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal to 100 parts per billion,” the report notes. And earlier, in 2013, it proposed limiting inorganic arsenic in apple juice to 10 ppb, which is the federal standard for arsenic in drinking water
Dickerson says Consumer Reports has been discussing the need for more regulation with the FDA. The agency says it is hoping to finalize the new guidelines by the end of 2018.
Food Makers’ Response
Consumer Reports officials have also had discussions with baby food makers. Among the actions the experts at Consumer Reports recommend, Dickerson says, are sourcing the raw food from growers to be sure it has low levels of heavy metals and ensuring the manufacturing process does not introduce contaminants (like from metal used in the machinery). Most companies said they do their own testing and are in favor of the government setting limits, according to the report.
Beech-Nut, a major baby food maker, said in a statement that it focuses on safety and quality of its infant and toddler foods. “We have high standards and rigorous testing protocols. We established heavy metal testing standards 35 years ago, and we continuously review and strengthen them wherever possible.”
The company says it already follows Consumer Reports’ recommendations about manufacturers ”sourcing produce from areas less likely to be contaminated, and ensuring water and equipment used for manufacturing do not contribute to contamination.”
The company says it buys its rice from California, which, it says, has the lowest levels of arsenic of any rice-growing region.
The company, in its statement, also says it “partners with our farmers and our ingredient and packaging suppliers to control, reduce and limit contaminants in all our foods.”