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Report: Popular Baby Food Products Contain Toxic Amounts Of Heavy Metals

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A new government report found several baby food products contain toxic heavy metals.

The report looked at internal documents from Gerber, Beech Nut, Walmart store brands and Sprout Foods.

It found those baby foods have significant amounts of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury.

Web Extra: Read The Report (pdf)

Researchers say the metals can be especially dangerous to brain development in babies and toddlers.

MORE: Schumer Calls For Federal Probe After Study Finds Lead, Other Metals In Baby Food

Four of the companies shared internal documents and test results, and the report said all showed the presence of lead, arsenic and cadmium in their own test results at levels that eclipse maximum levels for other products.

The report said compared to levels allowed by the FDA in bottled water, there was up to 91 times more arsenic, 69 times more cadmium and 177 times more lead levels.

"I was stunned," said Charlotte Brody, national director for Healthy Babies Bright Futures. "What we've really learned over last 20 years is that levels that we used to think were safe really can add up to harm."

Pediatrician Perry Sheffield is a professor of environmental medicine at Mount Sinai Health System.

"The story here is that there's been a continued lack of action," she told CBS2's Lisa Rozner. "And frankly, I think industry is calling for it too because they want clear guidance about what the rules are."

She explains some of the metals are naturally occurring in soil and get into the food process through agriculture. Other times, it's from processing.

Westchester-based Consumer Reports highlighted the issue in 2018, testing 50 baby foods, and found every product had measurable levels of at least one of three heavy metals. About two-thirds had worrisome levels of at least one heavy metal.

"Some of the companies knew of these high levels of heavy metal contamination, and yet they still went ahead and sold the products," said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy for Consumer Reports. "And the FDA's been slow to act on enforcement issues."

Experts say parents should not panic and throw out all the baby food. Instead, make sure a child's diet is varied with different fruits and vegetables.

"Offer a varied diet to their children. They don't have to rely solely on rice cereals or the puffs that include primarily rice as a component," Sheffield said.

"Every time a parent picks oatmeal instead of rice cereal or mixed vegetables rather than sweet potatoes, you're lowering the levels a little bit and making your baby a little bit safer," Brody said.

Doctors also say avoid fruit juice.

Children in New York State are tested for lead at 1 and 2 years old.

Companies who responded for comment said they are committed to safety, and several said they are part of the Baby Food Council, a group formed with a goal of voluntarily reducing heavy metals in baby foods.


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