FDA issues guidance to reduce lead exposure in baby food

24 January 2023

(The Hill) — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released new guidelines for the amount of lead that can be in processed food for babies and small children under the age of 2, a move the agency says would result in significant reductions in the exposure to the toxic metal.

The new guidance includes a limit of 10 parts per billion of lead in fruits, some vegetables and yogurts and 20 parts per billion in root vegetables and dry cereals. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said the new standards could result in a 24 percent to 27 percent reduction in exposure to lead from the foods.

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“The proposed action levels announced today, along with our continued work with our state and federal partners, and with industry and growers to identify mitigation strategies, will result in long-term, meaningful and sustainable reductions in the exposure to this contaminant from foods,” Califf said in a statement announcing the new regulations.

These foods absorb vital nutrients from the environment, which also means they absorb toxins such as lead that can be harmful to people when consumed, the agency explained in the announcement. It is not possible to entirely eliminate such contaminants from the food supply.

The new guidance from the agency comes as a 2022 study found that nearly all homemade and prepackaged baby foods contained some levels of toxic heavy metals such as lead and arsenic. 

The study, conducted by Healthy Babies Bright Futures alliance, found that 94 percent of prepackaged foods contained the toxins.

The FDA’s new guidance is part of its Closer to Zero program, which seeks to reduce childhood exposure to contaminants.

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