Feeding baby can be a fraught topic for parents. We wonder, “Are we feeding him enough? Are these the best foods? Should we be making our own baby food?” Now, parents of littles have another worry to add to their plate: new lab testing by Consumer Reports has found alarming levels of heavy metals in baby foods, including lead, arsenic and cadmium.

So why are heavy metals bad for your tot’s health? Well you’ve probably already heard about the dangers that lead poses—that’s why you make sure your drinking water isn’t running through pipes that leech the substance or you test the paint on your walls for its presence. But did you ever think about looking into what your kiddo is actually eating?

Photo: Tanaphong Toochinda via Unsplash 

The pros at Consumer Reports analyzed 50 packaged baby and toddler foods, specifically testing for heavy metals such as inorganic arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium. While every product analyzed has measurable levels of at least one heavy metal, at least 68 percent of the products had what Consumer Reports calls “worrisome” levels of a heavy metal. Foods containing rice or sweet potatoes were more likely to have higher heavy metal levels.

But that’s not all. The Consumer Reports tests also showed that 15 of the items that were tested could pose health risks at levels of one serving or less per day. And before you start thinking, Hey I, feed my baby only organic foods, so no biggie—think again. The Consumer Reports study shows that organic products were just as likely to contain these heavy metals as the other foods tested.

While high levels of heavy metals can cause cognitive or developmental problems, chief scientific officer at Consumer Reports, James Dickerson, Ph.D., cautions parents not to panic. According to Dickerson, eating foods that contain heavy metals increase health risks—but they don’t guarantee it.

On sunny side of things, 16 of the products had what Consumer Reports deemed “less concerning” levels. This means that not all baby or toddler foods are made equally and that it’s entirely possible for manufacturers to create a low-metal product.

You can see the full list of all 50 baby and toddler foods tested at Consumer Reports‘ website to see how your favorites fared.

So what can you do to minimize the risks of heavy metals? According to Consumer Reports, you might want to limit the amount of rice cereal that you feed to your baby or toddler. When it comes to actual grain rice—not just rice cereal—stick to white basmati rice from India, California and Pakistan, along with American sushi-grade rice. These rices had only half of the inorganic arsenic found in other types of rice.

You can also limit the number of pre-packaged rice flour-based snacks your child has. Instead, choose fresh fruits (not juices, as they’re high in sugar and inorganic arsenic), veggies, yogurt or beans.

—Erica Loop



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