Sen. Chuck Schumer wants immediate action from the FDA to address toxic metals in baby food. He is also demanding the agency tell the public what it’s going to do about the food safety problem.

Schumer’s call for action from the Food and Drug Administration follows the release of a research report that found 95 percent of samples of baby and toddler foods were contaminated with at least one toxic heavy metal. One-fourth of samples contained all four metals researchers checked for. Those were arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.

The Democratic senator from New York is demanding new federal action to force the baby food industry to address heavy metals in their products.

“Simply put, when baby food ingredients across of a variety of brands are called into question, it is the job and charge of the FDA to be the cop on the beat making sure serious questions are answered and appropriate guidelines enforced,” Schumer said. “Right now, that’s not entirely the case, and it’s a fact pattern that needs to change, because parents are demanding answers.”

Problems with infant and toddler foods in recent years, including some recalls in the United States and abroad, provided the prelude to the release of the report in recent days. 

For the research project, the Healthy Babies Bright Futures organization tested 168 baby foods including 61 brands and 13 types of food. They tested infant formula, teething biscuits, cereals and fruit juices, according to the report. Parents selected all of the test samples, either at local stores or online.

Since the consumer group went public with the research, the FDA has not released any comments or statements about it, according to Schumer.

“The FDA’s inability to even comment on the new report leaves many people concerned,” said the Senate majority leader. “. . . the medley of metals found within baby food ingredients — including on New York shelves — raises serious health questions that demand clarity and long sought guidelines. . .

“Heavy metals in baby foods mixed with inaction by the FDA on this issue is a recipe for disaster, and a rightful concern of parents.”

Schumer says a working group established by the FDA in 2017 has yet to produce any new standards to modernize safety measures for the toxic metals Americans are exposed to, including in food. The Toxic Elements Working Group did not, apparently, help the FDA meet its own 2018 deadline to finalize arsenic guidelines for infant rice cereal and apple juice. 

In the wake of the report from Healthy Babies Bright Futures, the New York senator is calling for the FDA to:

  • Establish and finalize health-protective standards for heavy metals to protect against neurodevelopmental impacts;
  • Implement a proactive testing program for heavy metals in foods consumed by babies and toddlers; and
  • Act immediately to establish a health-based limit for arsenic in infant foods, which the FDA is currently working on but remains unfinished.

Toxic metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury are neurotoxins that can permanently alter the developing brain of a baby, erode their IQ, and affect behavior according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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