It’s been substantiated. Makers of infant cereals are indeed able to keep their baby food free of metals at a toxic level but choose not to. One third of products tested by Consumer Reports did not contain elevated levels of toxins - ultimately deemed poisonous. Which means it was a mindful resolution to control what was in or out of their various foods.
Scientific American puts things into perspective as they explain that heavy metals occur naturally on Earth and are perpetually existent in soil and water. However, their concentration is augmented due to pesticides, mining and pollution. This is compounded as a result of farming and food manufacturing processes. Finally, the realization that some crops inevitably absorb more metals than others is powerful knowledge.
Rice, for example, predominantly the first solid food introduced to babies readily takes in arsenic both because of its particular physiology and because it is often grown in fields flooded with water, which is a primary source of the metal. Although, rice is not the only ingredient being questioned. A 2018 study by Consumer Reports tested 50 foods made for babies and toddlers, and found evidence of at least one dangerous heavy metal in every product.
Interestingly, trusted organic and nonorganic brands such as Gerber, Earth's Best, and Beech-Nut contained fifteen of the 50 and had enough contaminants to pose potential health risks to a child eating one serving or less a day. Armed with this information, some companies have began to investigate the distinct sources of contamination in their products and reduce them. Fundamentally, only regulations will categorically compel action and time is of the essence.
Heavy metals - cadmium, inorganic arsenic, or lead can impair cognitive development in children, who are especially at risk to absorb more of these substances, in comparison with adults. Inorganic arsenic in drinking water has been found to lower the IQ scores of children. Moreover, heavy metals accumulate in the body over time, increasing the risk of cancer, reproductive problems, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cognitive issues.
It’s important to note, low levels of exposure for short periods are unlikely to cause devastating effects, and parents should focus on reducing the overall levels of these toxic substances in their children's total diet to limit harm.
In the US, laws governing ‘acceptable’ levels of toxins have yet to be enforced despite attempts by the FDA. Their aim was to issue new caps on the amount of arsenic allowed in rice cereal in 2016 and in apple juice in 2013, but neither motion ever materialized. Reports established that the FDA had not moved quickly enough to finalize the rules or communicate the potential risk to the public.
In 2018, a group of scientists and policy experts suggested diverse interventions at every step of the way from farm to table to help fight the problem both in the US and abroad. They included conducting more studies on which foods are the primary contributors of heavy metals and the principle ways in which to reduce the contamination in each of those crops.
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Food manufacturers could perform frequent testing of their source crops as well as their factory methods. It is also time for scientists, doctors and governments to publicly state the health risks as well as the best ways to avoid them.