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Study Finds Significant Lead in 1 in 5 Baby Food Samples

First Posted: Jun 19, 2017 05:05 AM EDT
Baby Food Maker Gerber
Gerber baby food products are seen on a supermarket shelf.
(Photo : Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Pediatricians and public health researchers have been on the lookout for lead exposure from paint chips and contaminated water. However, today it seems that they need to add another one on the list: baby food.

In an analysis of 11 years of federal data, the Environmental Defense Fund found a significant level of lead in 20 percent of baby food samples out of 2,164 that were tested. The toxic metal was said to have been found most commonly in fruit juices and root vegetables, as well as cookies like teething biscuits.

Dr. Aparna Bole, a pediatrician at the Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland told CNN that lead can have negative effects and is especially harmful during an infant's critical development phase. "The largest burden that we often think about is neurocognitive that can occur even at low levels of lead exposure."

The Environmental Protection Agency also estimated that over 5 percent of children can consume over 6 micrograms of lead per day due to their diet. EDF policy director Tom Neltner, who spent over 20 years researching and working to reduce lead exposures, noted that food is the major source of lead exposure in most toddlers. This analysis leads the organization to examine data from the FDA's resources.

The FDA also noted that lead makes its way into food through soil that has already been contaminated. But Neltner suspected that processing may have also played a role. However, there is no hard evidence other than that baby foods are assumed to be processed more than ordinary food.

While the brands of these contaminated products have not been revealed, Gerber released a statement that said samples of its baby foods and juices "consistently fall well within the available guidance levels and meet our own strict standards."

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