Lead found in 20 percent of baby food samples, report says

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A new report has found that 20% of baby food contains traces of lead - a higher amount than what is found in all other foods.

The Environmental Defense Fund analyzed publicly available data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Total Diet Study, which each year collects samples of food from around the country and tests it for a host of nutrients and contaminants, including lead.

"The fact that 55 percent of baby food apple juice samples have detectable levels of lead compared to 25 percent for regular apple juice deserves more examination", Maricel Maffini, a consultant for EDF, said.

The group also found that more baby food versions of apple and grape juice and carrots had detectable lead than the "regular" versions.

"Children who have elevated blood lead levels are more likely to have speech delays, cognitive difficulties, lower IQs", she said.

Among the vegetables which put babies at risk of lead ingestion, there are sweet potatoes, with the alarming quantity of 86 percent. Arrowroot cookies (64 percent of 44 samples) and teething biscuits (4 percent of 43 samples) were most often found positive.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) however has said that there are no safe blood lead levels in children identified yet. This included more than 12,200 samples of general food as well as baby food. Overall, only 14 percent of adult foods tested contained lead.

For simplicity, the EDF sorted the baby foods into eight categories: root vegetables; non-root vegetables; fruits including juices; cereal; infant formula; prepared meals; crackers and cookies; and desserts. Specifically, we examined potential IQ loss and the percentage of samples with high lead concentrations.

The environmental advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) on June 15 released a study about dietary lead exposure, with a focus on food intended for babies and young children.

The FDA says the administration set a maximum daily lead intake of six micrograms, which is being reviewed, saying on its website, "lead is in food because it is in the environment and lead can not simply be removed from food".

The FDA has indicated that it is re-evaluating its standards for lead in foods.

It's not clear how lead is showing up in baby food.

That said, the FDA's food standards were set in 1993.

Contamination also could happen during processing from lead leaching from older brass, bronze, plastic or coated food handling equipment that contains lead; or from deteriorated lead paint in the building.

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