The Baby Food Council is taking on the challenge of reducing heavy metals in young kids’ food

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Washington, DC – October 17, 2019) Today, the Baby Food Council, a broad-based group of companies and other organizations formed in January 2019, announced its efforts to take on the challenge of reducing heavy metals in young children’s food. This news comes as Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), a children’s health advocacy group and member of the Council, released a new report demonstrating that tests on over 150 foods consumed by babies and toddlers found that 95% of the products tested had detectable levels of heavy metals. Recognizing that heavy metals are widely present in the environment and can get into food, the Council seeks to reduce levels of heavy metals in food products to as low as reasonably achievable using best-in-class management techniques.

The HBBF report highlights the challenges and reinforces the need for more action to address this issue. The report documented detectable amounts of lead, cadmium, and inorganic arsenic in commercial baby foods as well as other foods commonly consumed by young children. “Parents can’t shop their way out of these exposures by choosing organic foods or by switching from store-bought brands to homemade purees,” the report noted, because these elements are commonly found in many foods. The report recommended a number of actions to help address the issue of heavy metals in foods including recommendations for government and food manufacturers. Importantly, it also offered simple steps for parents to help minimize exposure as the Council’s efforts to lower levels continue.

The Council consists of leading companies and academic, government, and NGO partners and advisors. Members of the Council are Beech-Nut Nutrition Company, Campbell Soup Company (Plum Organics), Cornell University, Environmental Defense Fund, Gerber Products Company, The Hain Celestial Group (Earth’s Best), Happy Family Organics, and Healthy Babies Bright Futures. The US Department of Agriculture and the US Food and Drug Administration serve as technical advisors.

Early efforts of the Council have focused on identifying those foods and ingredients with the most potential to contribute to heavy metal exposure in young children. Going forward, the Council will be working to determine best practices that can reduce heavy metal levels in these foods. This work will initially focus on the environment, understanding that heavy metals are widely present in soil and water and may become part of foods as they grow. The Council encourages other agricultural and industry groups to embrace the challenge of reducing heavy metals in foods for infants and toddlers – who are most vulnerable to harm from lead, cadmium, and inorganic arsenic exposure.

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“Being a dad, I understand the need for safe food. Beech-Nut cares deeply about the safety of all food – not just baby food – and that’s why we were a founding member of the Baby Food Council. We’re committed to working together to bring sustainable change in this important environmental issue,” said Jason Jacobs, Vice President of Food Safety & Quality, Beech-Nut Nutrition.

“Plum Organics is proud to be a member of the Baby Food Council. As part of the Council, we share the same overall goal of our industry partners, and that is to provide safe and high-quality products to babies and toddlers. Plum’s mission is to provide all little ones with the very best food from the very first bite,” said Annalisa Fornarelli, VP Global Food Safety and Quality, Campbell Soup Company.

“I am excited and happy to facilitate the Council to benefit the health and wellness of infants,” said Dr. Randy Worobo of Cornell’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

“The latest federal data from FDA on lead in food shows that the percent of samples with detectable levels remain stubbornly high for certain foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and teething biscuits,” said Tom Neltner, Chemicals Policy Director at Environmental Defense Fund. “The HBBF report reinforces the need to better understand the best practices to sustainably reduce heavy metals not just in baby food but all food. We are pleased to be a member of the Council to work towards that goal and solve this important challenge.”

“Gerber has always put babies and toddlers first, but we never stop asking ourselves, ‘Can we do more?’ This question inspires our commitment to continuously raise our high standards and improve our methods to reduce and limit contaminants in all our foods,” said Joel Lim, MD, Medical Director for Gerber. “We’re excited to be partnering with like-minded organizations who are also committed to improving the safety and quality of food for little ones.”

“Although heavy metals are naturally occurring in the environment, we are always looking to reduce their presence in food. Earth’s Best is excited to partner with the members of the Baby Food Council to support this important initiative,” said Raul Fajardo, Senior Vice President Technical Services, The Hain Celestial Group.

“At Happy Family Organics, our mission is, and always has been, to change the tradition of children’s health through nutrition. Being a founding member of and contributor to the Baby Food Council reinforces our commitment to create the best possible foundation for young children to realize their potential to lead a happy and healthy life. This is a great challenge in which many stakeholders across our industry need to work together, and we all share in the responsibility to do so,” he said. Jason Rosecast, Vice President of Quality and Food Safety for Happy Family Organics.

“We are excited to take on the challenge of reducing the levels of heavy metals in baby food through the Baby Food Council’s initiatives. The work promises to bring market-wide change that can benefit all families,” said Charlotte Brody, RN, National Director of Healthy Babies Bright Futures.

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About the Baby Food Council

The Baby Food Council is a group of infant and toddler food companies, supported by key stakeholders, seeking to reduce heavy metals in the companies’ products to as low as reasonably achievable using best-in-class management practices. The Council was created in January 2019 in partnership with Cornell University and the Environmental Defense Fund. All companies that source ingredients, manage the upstream supply chain, and nationally market foods for children six to 24 months of age in the United States are welcome to participate in the Council. Since its creation, Healthy Babies Bright Futures has joined the Council as a member and the Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture have agreed to serve as technical advisors to the effort. For more information about the Council, visit babyfoodcouncil.org or contact Randy Worobo of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at rww8@cornell.edu.

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