Lead found in 20% of baby food samples

Not Released

Not Released

"The levels we found were relatively low, but when you add them up - with all the foods children eat ... it's significant", says study author Tom Neltner of the Environmental Defense Fund. While the study is American, numerous same brands of baby food can be found in Canada.

In the study, the EDF analyzed 11 years worth of food collected by the FDA. Eight types of baby food had lead in more than 40 percent of samples. In March of this year, the EDF submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to get that brand-level data from the agency.

Contamination also could happen during processing from lead leaching from older brass, bronze, plastic or coated food handling equipment that contains lead; or from deteriorated lead paint in the building. More research is certainly needed.

The Food and Drug Administration has a guidance level for lead of 100 parts per billion for candy and dried fruit and 50 parts per billion for fruit juices.

This revised definition reflects findings from a 2012 National Toxicology Program Report that concluded a wide range of adverse health effects are associated with blood lead levels less than 5 μg/dL.

EDF did an exposure analysis (detection/nondetection), and reported the percentage of samples within different food types that tested positive for lead.

"The FDA is continuing to work with industry to further limit the amount of lead in foods to the greatest extent feasible, especially in foods frequently consumed by children", read an agency statement in response to the report.

That said, the FDA has released a response to the report, noting the agency is "reevaluating the analytical methods it uses for determining when it should take action with respect to measured levels of lead in particular foods, including those consumed by infants and toddlers".

"I don't know whether we can completely eliminate lead", Neltner said.

Parents of young children are encouraged to consult with their child's pediatrician to learn how they can reduce lead exposure. Bole was not involved in the report.

But she said she wouldn't want parents to avoid root vegetables altogether. Babies exposed to lead may be born prematurely. And samples of Gerber juices were all below the EPA standard for drinking water.

There's no safe level of lead, according to the EDF, and yet about 500,000 children have elevated blood lead levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But a report published Thursday by the Environmental Defense Fund raises questions about another, surprising possibility: food.

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