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FDA Proposes New Lead Limits for Baby Food

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The Food and Drug Administration proposed new limits on lead in baby food on Tuesday to reduce exposure to the toxin, which can impair a child’s development.

Lead limits apply to processed foods consumed by children under the age of two. In a statement, FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said the limits would reduce lead exposure from these products by 27%.

The proposed lead limits are not legally binding on the industry, but the FDA has said it will use them as a factor in deciding whether to take enforcement action against a company for selling contaminated food.

The agency has proposed the following lead concentration limits for baby food:

  • 10 parts per billion for fruits, vegetables, yogurts, custards and puddings, mixes, and single-ingredient meats. This would reduce exposure by 26%.
  • 20 parts per billion for root crops. This would reduce exposure by 27%.
  • 20 parts per billion for dry grains. This would reduce exposure by 24%.

Lead is toxic and especially dangerous for young children. This can disrupt the development of the brain and nervous system, leading to learning disabilities and behavioral difficulties.

Exposure to lead through food among children ages 1 to 3 has decreased by 97% since the 1980s, according to the FDA. While progress has been made over the years, in 2021 the agency began efforts to reduce the levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury in baby food as much as possible.

According to the FDA, food eaten by children can contain lead from contaminated water or soil, industrial activities, and old lead-containing equipment used to prepare the food. The agency said it is impossible to completely remove lead from food, but the restrictions should encourage industry to take steps to reduce its presence as much as possible.

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