In February, a U.S.A. congressional report was made public, which sparked outrage in parents of infants and toddlers across the country, and for a good reason. The investigation found the baby food of seven major companies to contain alarming concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, all of which are toxic heavy metals that can endanger children’s neurodevelopment. Among the manufacturers whose products were tainted with toxic metals is Gerber. A company owned by Nestlé that sells baby food in the Caribbean and Florida.
To understand how serious the issue of heavy metals in baby food is, one should know that cadmium, arsenic, lead, and mercury are neurotoxins, meaning that once they reach the bloodstream, they travel to the brain, where they may inflict irreversible damage if present in high concentrations. Children are particularly vulnerable to the adverse health effects of heavy metals because they are still growing and developing. In the worst cases, children exposed to toxic metals from baby food develop autism, which can be a lifelong disability for some.
The Company Used Rice Flour with a Concentration of Arsenic 9 Times Greater than the Safe Limit
The safe limit for arsenic in baby food and other consumer products is 10 parts per billion (ppb). However, during the investigation, Gerber was found to have used 67 batches of rice flour that contained over 90 ppb arsenic. Furthermore, the company used ingredients to manufacture baby food with lead levels as high as 48 ppb. Whereas the safe limit for this heavy metal is 5 ppb. Moreover, roughly 75% of the carrots it used contained a 5 ppb excess of cadmium, with some having up to 87 ppb.
The investigation prior to the congressional report being released, revealed Gerber rarely tests for mercury in baby food. This is an unsafe practice or a lack thereof since baby food ingredients often absorb heavy metals from contaminated surroundings. Most commonly contaminated water and soil and use of herbicides and insecticides. Gerber was also among the baby food companies that did not test their finished products for heavy metals. They only test their ingredients.
As for lead, one of the most dangerous heavy metals, it was revealed that Gerber used ingredients in baby food that had up to 48 ppb. Moreover, the company would regularly accept ingredients that contained over 20 ppb lead. The company’s heavy metal test results from 2017 show that the average concentration of lead inproducts was 34 ppb. Both in organic and conventional ingredients. Lastly, more than 83% of the juice concentrates of Gerber had over 1 ppb lead.
Gerber Baby Food Still Available on Store Shelves in Florida
Many people wonder how Gerber could get away with skipping heavy metal testing for baby food for so long, especially since the manufacturer caters to developing, vulnerable children. Nestlé is the largest food company in the world, with a market capitalization of $247 billion. It is not surprising that Gerber baby food is still sold in stores in Florida, US, and the Caribbean. The baby food manufactured by Gerber covers a wide range and may seem attractive to most parents. Including multigrain cereal and barley single grain cereal to carrot veggie pickups and sweet potato sitters,
However, in light of the recent findings of heavy metals in Gerber’s baby food, parents should be cautious when shopping for baby food. Incidentally, in the summer of this year, Gerber chose its spokesbaby from Winter Park, Florida. The family of the child, Zane Kahin, received $25,000, free Gerber products to last for up to one year. As well as a $1,000- worth wardrobe by the company’s line of baby clothes.
A beacon of hope is the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021. Which would immediately set safe limits for all four heavy metals of concern. In the country, just arsenic is regulated and only in infant rice cereal, with a limit of 100 ppb. The limit, which was set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is considered too high by most health organizations. Due to the fact the products are made for children whose bodies are more sensitive to neurotoxins. If the bill becomes law, there will finally be strict limits for heavy metals in infant and toddler food. The parents will no longer have to worry about toxic agents in the products they feed their children.
About the Author
For over two decades, Jonathan Sharp has been the Chief Financial Officer and Director of Claims at Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. The law firm, located in Birmingham, Alabama, specializes in toxic exposure. Jonathan Sharp is responsible for case evaluation, client relations management, financial analysis, and the collection and distribution of funds.