In the late 1920s, the first jars of pureed fruits and vegetables appeared on the market, and parents nationwide were stoked. Harold Clapp, who sold Clapp’s Baby Food, paved the way for numerous other baby food manufacturers. The Fremont Canning Company, known as Gerber today, began producing baby food shortly after 1927. By the 1950s, 90% of infants and toddlers in the United States were being fed commercial baby food. These products were seen as a modern, convenient, and healthy way to nourish a baby.
However, over the past decades, many baby food companies have become careless and unethical in manufacturing products meant to nurture children under 36 months. This is because they began valuing financial profit over the well-being of developing children. Consequently, roughly 70% of American parents have started making baby food at home, which is not only much healthier but also cost-effective. One of the deterrents to purchasing baby food was undoubtedly the 2021 congressional report that exposed the questionable practices of four popular baby food companies.
Some of the Most Distressing Findings of the Congressional Report
Before listing a few alarming discoveries in the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy report, it is essential to keep in mind the safe limits of the heavy metals found in baby food. The limit is 10 ppb for arsenic, for cadmium, 5 ppb, for lead, 5 ppb, and for mercury, 2 ppb. The baby food companies that agreed to participate in the congressional investigation exceeded the safe cadmium limit by 69 times, the maximum arsenic limit by 91 times, and the safe lead limit by 177 times.
Below are more specific findings concerning the baby food company Beech-Nut, the one with the most unsettling test results, which will help you get a clearer idea about how serious this problem is:
- the company used ingredients in baby food with over 900 ppb of arsenic
- it allowed baby food containing 886 ppb lead to go on the market
- the manufacturer used some elements with more than 340 ppb of cadmium
The test results of the baby food ingredients and finished products eclipse the safe limits for arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. It is worthy of note that initially, seven baby food companies had been asked to share their internal documents and practices with the investigators, but three outright refused. This might indicate that they were aware they had significant issues regarding the presence of heavy metals in their products, so they decided to keep any inadequate practices to themselves.
How Exposure to Heavy Metals from Baby Food Can Result in Autism
Over recent years, infants and toddlers have been exposed to greater concentrations of heavy metals from baby food. These harmful metals end up in the raw ingredients of baby food by absorption through the roots, stems, and leaves from the soil and water. Nevertheless, it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to ensure the heavy metals level in the baby food is below the maximum limit. Once heavy metals accumulate in a child’s body in a large enough concentration, they start acting as neurotoxins. Neurotoxins are substances that wreak havoc on the brain and nervous system.
Since they are neurotoxins, heavy metals will cross the blood-brain barrier and reach the cerebral matter, where they will settle, resulting in neurodevelopmental disorders and problems in children with multiple risk factors. The health problems having a high level of heavy metals in the body children can develop include cognitive damage, a lower IQ, behavioral abnormalities, ADHD, various learning disabilities, and, last but not least, autism. There is a significant association between exposure to heavy metals and autism.
The buildup of heavy metals in the blood creates free radicals, which generate oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can damage proteins, DNA, and cells. Many children with autism share a chronic flaw in the natural defenses of the body against free radicals. 1 out of 44 children born in 2010 or after will develop autism in the United States, and the incidence of the disorder has risen by approximately 1% since 2007. Consuming tainted baby food is likely a contributing factor to the increasing prevalence of autism.
Another way heavy metals can harm the developing brain is by triggering inflammation in the brain. Heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium contribute to this and alter the formation of neural connections.
3 Ways to Minimize the Heavy Metals Content in Your Child’s Diet
Every parent only wants the best for their child, from birth until they’re ready to spread their wings, ensuring they fully achieve their physical, emotional, cognitive, and social well-being. That’s why parents scour the World Wide Web today to search for the best baby food that doesn’t contain heavy metals.
It’s important to note that avoiding exposure to heavy metals can be difficult, as they can be found in many everyday items and in the most basic necessities, such as water and air. However, by taking the necessary steps and being mindful of your baby’s food sources, you can reduce their exposure to heavy metals. You may refer to sites like Serenity Kids to learn more about the presence of heavy metals in baby food and how to keep your little one safe from these harmful elements.
Fortunately, there are many practical and easy ways to substantially lower the content of heavy metals in your child’s diet. The first tips come from the 2019 study “What’s in My Baby Food?” by Healthy Babies Bright Futures, a non-profit organization. By considering the following advice and taking these measures, you can protect your baby from ingesting food with a tremendous heavy metals concentration.
- Replace Store Baby Food with Natural or Safer Alternatives
The study by Healthy Babies Bright Futures found that a whacking 95% of the baby food on the American market contains at least one toxic metal. As a practical alternative, it proposes the following replacements, which can reduce the content of heavy metals in your baby’s diet by up to 80%:
- replace teething biscuits with a cold banana to lower the heavy metal concentration by 91%
- replace rice cereal with rice-free cereals to reduce the heavy metal content by 93%
- replace fruit juice with plain water to lower the heavy metal concentration by 68%
- replace sweet potatoes with other fresh produce to reduce the heavy metal content by 73%
- Do Not Shy Away from Breastfeeding for as Long as Possible
Breastfeeding is essential for the proper development of your baby, as breastmilk is the best milk. The nutrients in it are unmatched by any other first food your child can eat. In addition to boosting the immune system, it has numerous other health benefits for your baby, such as reducing their risk of asthma, diabetes, obesity, sudden infant death syndrome, pulmonary infections, stomach bugs, and ear infections.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that, ideally, infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first six months of life, and until the 12-month mark, coupled with the introduction of complementary foods.
The longer you breastfeed your baby, the later they will need commercial baby food. So, it is best to do it for at least one year, as pediatricians recommend, or even longer, if possible. Breastfeeding has some health benefits for you as a mother, such as a lower risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
- Feed Your Baby Rice and Fish Just Occasionally
Rice is known to contain crazy amounts of arsenic, as it can absorb up to 20 times more from the soil and water than other crops, whereas some fish has a reputation for containing a lot of mercury. Therefore, it is good to give your child these foods as rarely as possible. When cooking rice, you should use plenty of water and drain it off at the end. Alternatively, you can use sushi or basmati rice instead of regular rice, as these types have considerably less arsenic.
Lastly, the ones you should avoid include orange roughly, swordfish, ling, fresh tuna, marlin, king mackerel, tilefish, and northern pike when it comes to fish. On the other hand, the healthier fish options are anchovies, flounder, pollock, mullet, plaice, haddock, and salmon. Fish is an excellent source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids, so you should not avoid preparing it for your child if you choose a healthy and safe product.
There is the Toxic Baby Food Replacement Initiative for parents who are still uncertain about what to feed their babies. They can request the baby food they need and will receive healthy, nourishing products made by ethical companies that test for heavy metals. If you want to receive baby food, you have to fill out the form at the bottom of the page.