By David Shepardson
New York Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take action to set uniform standards related to toxic metals across all baby foods.
James called on the FDA to follow recommendations issued last week by a U.S. House panel to set standards for all baby food, not just rice cereal, and require food manufacturers to test finished products for toxic metals rather than just separate ingredients. James also said she is simultaneously exploring all legal options.
The FDA said Tuesday it has “received the letter and will respond directly” to James.
The agency said last week it had a “strong commitment to continue to reduce consumer exposure to toxic elements and other contaminants from food.”
The House Oversight subcommittee report found “dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals” in certain baby foods that could cause neurological damage.
The panel examined baby food made by Nurture Inc, Hain Celestial Group Inc, Beech-Nut Nutrition, Gerber, a unit of Nestle, and others.
The report said internal company standards “permit dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals, and documents revealed that the manufacturers have often sold foods that exceeded those levels.”
Baby food companies said last week they were working to reduce levels of metals that occur naturally in food products.
The FDA notes toxic elements are present in the environment and enter the food supply through soil, water or air. “Because they cannot be completely removed, our goal is to reduce exposure to toxic elements in foods to the greatest extent feasible,” the FDA said last week.
The FDA has declared that inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury are dangerous, particularly to infants and children, the report noted.
The FDA in August finalized guidance on infant rice cereal, setting an action level of 100 parts of inorganic arsenic per billion.
Several proposed class-action lawsuits have been filed on behalf of people purchasing baby food since the report was released.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Steve Orlofsky and Andrea Ricci)