House subcommittee hits baby food manufacturers over high metal content

Some major baby food manufacturers have failed to properly recall products containing arsenic levels higher than those allowed by the government, according to a recent Congressional report.

Rice cereals for infants from Beech-Nut Nutrition Co. and Nestlé HER

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Gerber contained more inorganic arsenic than allowed by the Food and Drug Administration, according to findings released this week by the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy.

The report, prepared by the Democratic majority staff on the subcommittee, said Beech-Nut recalled product codes related to two of the six samples where the arsenic level was too high, and Gerber only recalled the products. related to neither of the two samples where the level was too high.

“Today’s report reveals that companies not only underreport the high levels of toxic content in their baby foods, but also knowingly keep toxic products in the market,” said representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (D. , Ill.), Chairman of the subcommittee. .

Spokesmen for three of the Republican members of the subcommittee did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for Rep. Scott Franklin from Florida declined to comment.

When the subcommittee released a report on the matter earlier this year, a spokesperson for Republicans on the committee called the report “not credible.”

Beech-Nut Nutrition said its recall was not too small and that it was proactively recalling other products. Gerber said the FDA, which regulates food safety, retested a sample of the company’s rice cereals and confirmed to Gerber that no action was needed.

Heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and mercury are naturally present in soil and water. Baby food manufacturers have stated that their products contain these metals at safe levels.

Exposure to heavy metals in food can be harmful to brain development in children, according to the FDA, but the extent of the potential damage to the levels found in baby food is unclear.

The report released on Wednesday also named Plum Organics’ baby food products as having high levels of toxic heavy metals. Sun-Maid Growers of California, known for their raisins, acquired Plum Organics from Campbell Soup Co.

earlier this year. Sun-Maid said in a statement that she had done rigorous due diligence on the company before purchasing it and would carefully review the report.

The subcommittee also said that Walmart Inc.,

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which has its own brand of baby food, has increased the level of internal inorganic arsenic allowed in finished baby food to more than four times what it was before.

“Our specifications have always been in line with or lower than the FDA’s requirements for natural elements,” Walmart said.

Earlier this year, the same House subcommittee released a report that baby foods from Beech-Nut, Gerber and Walmart contained “dangerously high levels” of substances like arsenic. In recent years, consumer groups have come to similar conclusions.

Campbell Soup, Sprout Foods and Walmart, however, had not provided the committee with the requested documents and information at the time of this previous report, but the companies then began to cooperate, the subcommittee said.

Earlier this year, the FDA, in response to the subcommittee’s previous report, set deadlines to set limits for toxic heavy metals in baby foods. But the subcommittee’s report on Wednesday recommended that the agency accelerate those deadlines, calling them “far into the future.”

The subcommittee also recommended that either the FDA require baby food manufacturers to test their finished products for toxic heavy metals, or that companies do so voluntarily.

Their report singled out Sprout Foods Inc., which is owned by Canadian company Neptune Wellness Solutions.,

claiming that its “testing practices appear to be the most reckless among baby food manufacturers.” The company relies on suppliers to test ingredients to measure toxic heavy metal content and asks those suppliers to test ingredients once a year, according to the subcommittee report.

Sprout said it is committed to sourcing ingredients from the cleanest and safest suppliers, and that it stands “ready to make any changes to our supply or processing systems that may be required. advised by the FDA, USDA, or other relevant regulatory agencies. “

Beech-Nut said its “baby food manufacturing process does not add heavy metals to the end product.” Nestlé, Gerber’s parent company, said it “has a rigorous process for testing finished foods.” Walmart, in a letter to the subcommittee, said it “establishes finished product specifications for its private label products, including its infant and baby foods sold under the Parent’s Choice label.”

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