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Heavy Metals in Baby Food – no need to panic!

By Dr. Lena Edelstein, Pediatric Health Associates
Feeding is a common concern of parents. We want to make sure our children are satisfied, and ensure they are getting the proper nutrients they need to go and thrive. Additionally, we want to ensure that we are giving them healthy foods and avoid unnecessary sugars and harmful chemicals.
Recent news about heavy metals detected in commonly available baby foods has raised concern amongst parents. Per the American Academy of Pediatrics, the levels detected in the baby food is likely a small part of the overall exposure children have to heavy metals.
 
Heavy metals are a natural part of the earth’s crust. They become incorporated into our foods in a variety of ways – either directly during the growing process (fruits, vegetables, grains), or through ascension through the food chain (fish). Heavy metals can also be introduced to food during the packaging and manufacturing process. The report discusses heavy metal detected in baby food, but heavy metals are found in adult foods as well in varying degrees. Heavy metals can also be found in contaminated well water, old pipes, cigarettes, and cosmetic products.
 
So what to do with this information?
 
Eat a healthy variety of food. A varied diet limits the risk posed by any one food. Wash food properly, peel vegetables when appropriate. You can consider making your own baby food, decreasing the exposure from packaging and manufacturing. A more manageable in-between path between making all of your own baby food or using all pre-package baby food is taking advantage of readily available soft, mashable foods (hello overripe bananas and avocados!) Roasted vegetables and homemade smoothies are other great “real people” foods readily adaptable to a young infant exploring new foods and new textures.
 
Eliminate all exposure to cigarette smoke and vaping. Protect your child from cleaning supplies and chemicals in the home.
 
Make sure your child is going to all routine well care appointments, during which time you can discuss eating habits and safety concerns with your pediatrician.
 
My youngest just turned one year old last month. We are transitioning to mostly table foods, but in recent months she’s eaten her fair share of pre-made pureed packaged foods and infant cereal. I do not plan on testing her for heavy metal exposure, as there is no current recommendation to do so by the American Academy of Pediatrics. A blood lead level was tested at 10 months of age, and will be tested again at 2 years of age, per American Academy of Pediatric guidelines.
 
More information can be found at Healthy Children website:
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Metals-in-Baby-Food.aspx