Reports of high levels of arsenic found in infant rice cereals have rightly caused alarm among parents in the last several years. The recently released Congressional report on inorganic arsenic and other heavy metals in infant foods, published on February 4, has added to those concerns.
Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not set limits on heavy metals for baby foods except for arsenic in rice cereal. At the same time, baby food manufacturers are not required to test and disclose the amount of arsenic and other metals in their products.
Some arsenic and other metals like lead, cadmium, and mercury are unavoidable in the food supply because they occur naturally in soil, water and/or air. As a result, they can be found in many nutritious foods and beverages consumed by Americans. Not surprisingly, they are also found in iron-fortified infant rice cereal, jarred baby vegetable/fruits, canned fish, and 100% fruit juices.
To help parents limit their child’s exposure to heavy metals in their diet and ease concerns, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has provided useful, recently updated guidance and resources for consideration.
The National WIC Association (NWA) joined the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to request that the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) actively engage the FDA regarding safety limits for heavy metals and issue guidance for WIC providers and program participants. At the same time, NWA is engaged in conversations with other national health and nutrition partners to consider further appropriate actions to address consumer – especially parent’s – health, and safety concerns.
WIC provides access to a wide range of infant foods that promote healthy eating. Parents are encouraged to contact their local WIC clinic to learn more about infant feeding recommendations.