A House Oversight Committee report says alarming levels of toxic heavy metals—including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury—have been found in major-label baby food products. The heavy metals can imperil infant neurological development in infants. The subcommittee's chairman expressed frustration with federal regulators, the Washington Post reports. "Over the last decade advocates and scientists have brought this to the attention of the Food and Drug Administration," Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi said. "The FDA must set standards and regulate this industry much more closely, starting now." The agency said it's looking over the panel's findings. The panel asked seven labels to provide the results of their internal tests. Gerber, Beech-Nut, HappyBABY, and Earth’s Best Organic baby foods did; Plum Organics baby foods, Walmart's Parent’s Choice, and Sprout Foods did not.
Because the heavy metals occur naturally, there's no need to panic, a Consumer Reports expert said. "You want to minimize the risk," he said, per CBS. "You can't eliminate it entirely, but you can minimize it." He suggests parents make sure their child's diet is varied, avoiding snacks that have high levels of heavy metals, such as crackers and puffs. Rice and sweet potato products absorb pollutants more readily, he said. A US agency ranks arsenic as the most dangerous naturally occurring substance, with lead No. 2. "Exposure to these toxic heavy metals affects babies' brain development and nervous system," said an expert at the Environmental Defense Fund. "It affects their behavior, permanently decreases their IQ and, if you want to boil it down to dollars, their lifetime earnings potential." The committee posted its report here. (There's a way to cook rice that reduces the arsenic in it, researchers say.)