Detectable levels of lead were found in about 20 percent of 2,164 baby food samples, posing a risk to children’s development, according to an analysis of 11 years of federal data conducted by the Environmental Defense Fund. Lead was most commonly detected in fruit juices, root vegetables baby foods and teething biscuits and cookies, CNN reported.
The analysis focused on baby foods and beverages because of the risks lead exposure poses to infants and children during development. Even at low levels, exposure to the toxic metal can cause neurocognitive issues leading to problems with behavior, attention, cognitive development, the cardiovascular system, and the immune system.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993 said that children should not exceed more than six micrograms of lead in their diet per day. In a draft released earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that more than 5 percent of children in the U.S. were consuming more than the maximum recommended amount, and that the major source of lead exposure in two thirds of toddlers was food.
The Environmental Defense Fund was prompted to take a closer look at what foods might be contributing to the problem of lead exposure in some children, examining data from the FDA’s Total Diet Study. Researchers found that baby foods containing apple juice, grape juice, and carrots were more likely to have detectable levels of lead. Most often, lead found its way into the food through contaminated soil. But researchers say how the baby foods are processed may also play a role.
The Environmental Defense Fund report looked to the FDA and the food industry to update limits and standards regarding lead in baby foods to better protect infants from lead exposure.
“The FDA is continuing to work with industry to further limit the amount of lead in foods to the greatest extent feasible, especially in foods frequently consumed by children,” read an agency statement in response to the report. “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.”