A Hospitality Health Nurse Practitioner Shares Helpful Tips for Parents Who Are Concerned for Their Kids’ Health
Providing babies with nutritious food is critical for healthy growth and development. However, a new study shows that 95% of baby food brands, many of which we all know and use widely, have traces of toxic heavy metals in them including inorganic arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.
This recent report has frightened parents and caused concern about the impact this could potentially have on their children. We’ll take a look at some of the specifics so you can familiarize yourself with the situation and learn about which foods might be safest and which you might want to avoid., Although the idea of metals in your children’s food is alarming, a Hospitality Health ER Family and Nurse Practitioner helps provide some context:
Keep in mind that minor levels of metal are not harmful. In fact, because metals are naturally found in earth’s soil, exposure to metal is unavoidable. With that said, baby foods are a small aspect of children’s overall metal contamination, but it is still important to minimize exposure from all sources.
How is it possible for metal to be in food?
Metal is found in the earth’s crust and is also released into the environment all around us. Once these metals get into our air, it turns into pollution, which impacts the soil and water that is utilized for our food production. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the most common metals that are found in food due to the environment are arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.
Baby foods, or food in general, can acquire toxic metals from the soil that they grow in or water that they use to thrive. Additionally, the contamination can occur during the packaging, processing, or transporting process.
Tips from a Hospitality Health Nurse Practitioner
Marcie Lusk DNP, FNP-C, ENP-C Emergency & Family Nurse Practitioner at Hospitality Health ER, gives parents some helpful tips in this situation:
There are many healthy options for feeding your baby. Don’t assume that all baby foods are problematic. The occasional serving of high levels of heavy metals will not permanently harm your baby.
Limit intake of the “highest-risk” baby foods.
This includes products containing rice, sweet potatoes, apple juice, and grape juice. Rice and sweet potatoes tend to absorb more heavy metals from the soil because of how they are grown. Other foods and grains, such as oatmeal, can be appropriate options.
Limit fruit juice.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that fruit juice not be routinely given to infants less than 12 months of age, as it is a source of lead and arsenic. After 12 months, juice intake should be limited to small amounts each day. Fruit juice has no benefit over fresh fruit and whole foods.
Consider making your own.
Because heavy metals are still naturally occurring in the soil, they cannot be completely eliminated from foods. However, making your own baby food does limit the amount of additives that are added during food processing.
Minimize baby food snacks.
Puffs, teething biscuits, and crackers are more likely to contain heavy metals from being heavily processed.
Vary foods in your child’s diet.
Include whole foods, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Rotate the foods your child eats and avoid heavily processed foods.
Have the brands in question responded?
With the study claiming that several baby food brands contained “dangerously high levels” of toxic metals, many parents want to know if the specific brands that they use have responded and/or made a commitment to change their processing procedures.
On November 6, 2019, following reports alleging high levels of toxic heavy metals in baby foods, the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy requested internal documents and test results from seven of the largest manufacturers of baby food in the U.S. Only four of those companies have responded to the requests.
According to the House Oversight subcommittee’s Baby Food report, Nurture, Beech-Nut, Hain, and Gerber responded. Each of these companies submitted their test results for research and all 4 of the companies’ samples contained traces of arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury (although Beech-Nut and Hain did not test for mercury). According to the report, the test results found that the baby foods contained up to 91 times the FDA’s maximum allowable arsenic level, up to 177 times the maximum allowable lead level, up to 69 times the maximum allowable cadmium level, and up to 5 times the maximum allowable mercury level.
How can toxic metal impact your children’s health?
Because babies’ and toddlers’ brains are still developing, toxic metal can cause some health concerns that can at times be irreversible. An excessive amount of metal can hinder babies’ physical and mental growth, as well as contribute to mental health concerns, including behavioral and attention-deficit issues.
Excessive toxic metal contamination can also impact a baby’s neurological development and can long-term brain functions. This can result in a lower IQ and antisocial tendencies.
Please note that because metals are a part of our environment, it is nearly impossible to consume a completely uncontaminated diet. These health concerns are linked with excessive consumption of toxic metals.
What are safer alternatives?
This Baby Food Facts Sheet is a helpful resource when it comes to substitutions for your babies’ favorite foods.
What foods are at a higher risk of containing higher traces of heavy metal? Rice puff snacks , teething biscuits, rice rusks, infant rice cereal, fruit juices, carrots, and sweet potatoes.
What are safer alternatives to substitute? Rice-free snacks, frozen bananas/chilled cucumbers (for teething), multi-grain cereals, oatmeal, and a wide variety of fruits and veggies.
This doesn’t mean you have to cut out carrots and sweet potatoes altogether. By incorporating a wide array of fruits and veggies into your child’s diet, you decrease that risk factor.
Overall, metal contamination is unavoidable. However, it’s important to research your kid’s foods and familiarize yourself with the safest alternatives offered. For any updates on the FDA’s response, visit this link.
For more healthy tips for kids, follow along on our Hospitality Health ER blog. We’ve recently covered “Baby Nutrition: Health From the Start” and “Too Much Screen Time?” For giveaways, updates, and COVID-19 tips, like us on Facebook and Instagram.