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Toxic Heavy Metals in Baby Food

Toxic Heavy Metals in Baby Food

Evidence has emerged over the past several years that multiple popular baby food manufacturers, including manufacturers of organic products, have sold food that contains high levels of toxic metals like lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium.

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No parent would knowingly feed their baby toxins associated with causing severe and permanent brain damage. But, shockingly, evidence has emerged over the past several years that multiple popular baby food manufacturers, including manufacturers of organic products, have sold food that contains high levels of toxic metals like lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium.

In 2021, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy published a report identifying high levels lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium in baby food manufactured by certain manufacturers. The report provides that the identified companies knowingly sold - and continue to sell - products tainted with heavy metals including: 

  • Beech-Nut
  • Gerber
  • Hain Celestial Group - Earth’s Best Organic
  • Nurture - Happy Family Organics and Happy BABY
  • Plum Organics
  • Sprout Foods - Sprout Organic Food
  • Walmart - Parent’s Choice 

The U.S. House Subcommittee report also found that “commercial baby foods are tainted with significant levels of toxic heavy metals . . .” at levels “multiple times higher than allowed under existing regulations for other products.” For example, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) established the maximum allowable levels in bottled water at 10 parts per billion (ppb) for inorganic arsenic, 5 ppb for lead, and 5 ppb for cadmium, and 2 ppb for mercury. The “test results of baby foods and their ingredients eclipse those levels: including results up to 91 times the arsenic level, up to 177 times the lead level, up to 69 times the cadmium level, and up to 5 times the mercury level.”

As a result of the 2021 findings, the FDA created the Closer to Zero Campaign, with the stated goal of reducing the levels of toxic heavy metals in baby food by 2024. However, for some heavy metals like lead, there is no safe level.

Toxic heavy metals health effects in infants and young children

Arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury are naturally occurring metals capable of causing profound threats to human health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), ranks arsenic as the number one most significant toxic substance in the environment capable of posing a threat to human health. Lead ranks as the second most toxic, mercury ranks as third, and cadmium ranks as seventh.

Known health risks associated with each are: 


“Health risks known to be associated with arsenic exposure include impacts to multiple organ systems - pulmonary, gastrointestinal, hematological, hepatic, renal, immunologic, and neurological. The most severe effects being damage to the central nervous system and cognitive development in children.” 


“Following suit with arsenic, lead, and mercury, cadmium exposure in infancy and young childhood has been found to negatively affect Full Scale IQ scores. Cadmium exposure has also been found to be linked to increased incidence of [ADHD].”


“[L]ead exposure has been associated with a number of poor health outcomes including decreased cognitive performance, behavioral problems, delayed puberty and stunted postnatal growth. Most concerning is that the cognitive effects that lead exposure in early childhood contributes to appear to be permanent.” Even low levels of lead exposure can cause neurological and renal damage like behavioral disorders, ADHD, learning disabilities, and mental retardation.


“Mercury affects the developing brain, causing neurological problems that manifest themselves as vision and hearing difficulties, delays in the development of motor skills and language acquisition, and later, lowered IQ points, problems with memory and attention deficits.”

Infants and small children are especially vulnerable to the effects of toxic heavy metals due to multiple factors, including a high ratio of food intake to body ratio, greater intestinal absorption of food, and low effective excretion of toxins. Infants and small children consume more food in relation to their body weight and absorb heavy metals more readily than adults by 40 to 90%. Additionally, the physiologic mechanisms required to metabolize and eliminate heavy metals are underdeveloped in infants and small children.

Developing science strongly suggests that arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury, when ingested at sufficient levels by infants or young children, is linked to permanent brain damage. Specifically, these metals have been associated with decreased IQ, mental retardation, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other cognitive impairments.

Contact a toxic exposure lawyer

If your baby suffered developmental delays or other health effects after being fed baby food that allegedly contains high levels of toxic heavy metals, you may have a claim. Contact medical attorney Laura Stemkowski by email or call 1.800.768.4026 for more information or to discuss a potential claim.

Our heavy metals litigation experience

Motley Rice attorneys have worked for decades to see justice for children and families living with the lifelong effects of heavy metals exposure. The firm, as lead trial counsel, negotiated a $305 million settlement in 2019 to fund lead paint cleanup and abatement efforts in 10 California communities. Also, in 2019, the firm achieved a $6 million verdict against Sherwin-Williams Co., E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., and Armstrong Containers, Inc., for three young Milwaukee, Wis., residents who suffered severe developmental delays caused by toxic lead paint exposure in childhood. More recently in 2020, the firm helped negotiate a $600 million settlement for residents of Flint, Mich., that resolved legal claims against the state for causing the contamination of Flint’s water supply with lead and other harmful substances. We also represent parents whose children consumed dangerously high levels of lead in apple-cinnamon fruit pouches made by WanaBana, Schnucks and Weis Markets.

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