FDA sets new limits for lead levels in baby food

The FDA has announced plans to significantly reduce the limits on how much lead is allowed in baby food. The new guidance, which is still awaiting approval, would lower the maximum lead content in any food that’s marketed for babies and children under two years old. 

New standards would mean a 27% reduction, bringing the levels down to “closer to zero”. They cover all types of processed foods aimed at babies and toddlers, including jars, tubs, boxes, and pouches of ready made baby food. 

For these items, the lead would need to be lower than 10 parts per billion (ppb). This includes all mixtures, yoghurts, custards, puddings and single-ingredient meats. The limits would be higher for vegetables and dry cereals.

When announcing the news, FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf said: “For more than 30 years, the FDA has been working to reduce exposure to lead, and other environmental contaminants, from foods. This work has resulted in a dramatic decline in lead exposure from foods since the mid-1980s.”

“For babies and young children who eat the foods covered in today’s draft guidance, the FDA estimates that these action levels could result in as much as a 24% to 27% reduction in exposure to lead from these foods.” 

Health experts welcomed the news, but said that the FDA could still do more. U.S. PIRG Education Fund Consumer Watchdog Teresa Murray said: “Given everything physicians and scientists know about the irreversible damage caused when young children are exposed to toxic metals, why wasn’t this a priority long ago? And why did it take a kick in the pants from Congress?”

“The FDA estimates its new lead limits could reduce exposure to lead from these foods by 24% to 27%. Over what period of time?. Babies don’t have time. Those of us with children know they grow up fast. The FDA should adopt and enforce the new limits as soon as possible.”

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