FDA announces plan to limit toxic elements in baby foods

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week plans to reduce exposure to toxic elements in foods for babies, according to a statement released by the agency.

The new action plan, called Closer to Zero, outlines the agency’s approach to reducing exposure to toxic elements in foods commonly eaten by babies and young children to the lowest possible levels. The FDA’s goal is to reduce the levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury in these foods “to the greatest extent possible.” Since elements occur in our air, water and soil, there are limits to how low these levels can be, the FDA said.

The FDA plan will occur in three phases. The first phase, which will begin immediately, will include evaluating the science and research, proposing and finalizing maximum acceptable levels, and consulting with stakeholders. The agency will focus mainly on arsenic and lead during the plan’s first phase.

The FDA said it’s own testing revealed children are not at an immediate health risk from exposure to toxic elements at the levels found in foods. Agency representatives said they are also sensitive to the fact that requiring levels that are “not currently feasible could result in significant reductions in the availability of nutritious, affordable foods that many families rely on for their children.” The maximum acceptable levels will be recommended and voluntary by manufacturers, the statement said.

The announcement follows a congressional report released in February, which found many of the products made by the country’s largest commercial baby food manufacturers contain significant levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury.