The move follows a torrent of lawsuits filed against baby food brands named in the report and follows the introduction of The Baby Food Safety Act* in Congress, which proposes action levels for four heavy metals in baby foods, although the FDA has yet to evaluate the scientific basis for such thresholds.
While the ultimate goal is to get levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury (which are found in soil and water and sucked up by plants) down as close to zero as possible in baby foods, the FDA says it is “sensitive to the fact that requiring levels that are not currently feasible could result in significant reductions in the availability of nutritious, affordable foods that many families rely on for their children.
It added: “Through this plan, we’ll also take measures to ensure that limiting exposure to toxic elements in foods does not have unintended consequences—like limiting access to foods that have significant nutritional benefits by making them unavailable or unaffordable for many families, or unintentionally increasing the presence of one toxic element when foods are reformulated to reduce the presence of another.
“In addition, our goal of moving closer to zero reflects the reality that fruits, vegetables, and grains do take up toxic elements in the environment as they grow. With a cycle of continual improvement and collaboration, we aim to push the levels of toxic elements in these foods closer and closer to zero over time.”
‘We’ll take measures to ensure that limiting exposure to toxic elements in foods does not have unintended consequences’
It did not say whether the action levels proposed in the Baby Food Safety Act – inorganic arsenic (10 ppb, 15 ppb for cereal); lead (5 ppb, 10 ppb for cereal); cadmium (5 ppb, 10 ppb for cereal); mercury (2 ppb) – were feasible, but said it planned to take a “multi-phase, science-based, iterative approach to achieving our goal of getting levels of toxic elements in foods closer to zero over time.”