According to a report from a Congressional subcommittee, some of the leading brands had "dangerous levels" of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury

By Benjamin VanHoose
February 05, 2021 11:52 AM
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A new report finds several leading brands of baby products contain "dangerous levels" of toxic heavy metals like arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury.

The U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight's subcommittee on economic and consumer policy unveiled the findings of an investigation on Thursday. In 2019, the subcommittee requested internal documents from seven leading baby food manufacturers related to alleged high amounts of the detrimental metals.

Nurture, Inc. (Happy Family Organics, HappyBABY); Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (Earth's Best Organic); Beech-Nut Nutrition Company (Beech-Nut); and Gerber complied with the request.

Three companies did not comply, however: Walmart, Inc. (Parent's Choice); Sprout Foods, Inc. (Sprout Organic Foods); and Campbell Soup Company (Plum Organics). The subcommittee said it is "greatly concerned" over their lack of participation

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Arsenic, lead and cadmium were present in products from all companies who participated, according to the report.

"According to internal company documents and test results obtained by the Subcommittee, commercial baby foods are tainted with significant levels of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury," reads the report. "Exposure to toxic heavy metals causes permanent decreases in IQ, diminished future economic productivity, and increased risk of future criminal and antisocial behavior in children. Toxic heavy metals endanger infant neurological development and long-term brain function."

Subcommittee Chair Raja Krishnamoorthi told The Washington Post: "The FDA must set standards and regulate this industry much more closely, starting now. It's shocking that parents are basically being completely left in the lurch by their government."

Hain issued a statement in response to the report, saying the data "does not reflect our current practices" and "as science evolves, so too should our standards and practices." The company added: "Earth's Best has consistently supported efforts to reduce naturally occurring heavy metals from our food supply and stands ready to assist the Subcomittee's efforts toward that goal."

Gerber said in a statement that it remains "fully committed to being industry leaders in providing safe, quality nutrition for babies." It added that they "take many steps to minimize" the presence of heavy metals.

A Happy Family Organics spokesperson told PEOPLE in a statement that the 2019 data is "not representative generally of our entire range of products at-shelf today."

"We are disappointed at the many inaccuracies, select data usage and tone bias in this report," added the spokesperson. " We can say with the utmost confidence that all Happy Family Organics products are safe for babies and toddlers to enjoy, and we are proud to have best-in-class testing protocols in our industry."

Campbell Soup Company said in its statement: "Heavy metals are present throughout the environment, including soil and water. Whether you are growing your own produce in your backyard, buying fresh produce from a farmer's market or purchasing a product from your favorite retailer, these substances will be present in the food to some extent. Campbell is committed to minimizing environmental contaminants including heavy metals within our products, and we will work with anyone to help establish federal standards to ensure that babies get the food they need to support healthy growth in their early years."

Beech-Nut Nutrition told PEOPLE in a statement: "We want to reassure parents that Beech-Nut products are safe and nutritious. We are currently reviewing the subcommittee report. We look forward to continuing to work with the FDA, in partnership with the Baby Food Council, on science-based standards that food suppliers can implement across our industry."

Walmart said in a statement to PEOPLE that it is "committed to providing safe, quality food."

"We provided information to the subcommittee nearly a year ago and invited more dialogue on this important issue but never received any additional inquiries," said Walmart. "Any product testing would be managed by our suppliers, which is why we described the certification requirements for our private label manufacturers and explained that our private label baby food manufacturers must comply with all applicable laws and regulations, including those set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In addition, our private label product suppliers must meet our own internal finished goods specifications, which for baby and toddler food means the levels must meet or fall below the limits established by the FDA. ... We will review the report now that it is available." 

Sprout Organic Foods did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's requests for comment.