Babies are especially susceptible to the effects of toxins and heavy metals in food -- and it's frightening to think they could swallow tainted baby formula and baby food. The early years of life are a critical period when a baby's cells are rapidly dividing and more likely to be damaged by toxins from their environment. Plus, babies absorb heavy metals through their digestive tract more easily than adults do. According to a new study published in the Journal of Food Chemistry, some baby food and formulas from well-known companies are contaminated with heavy metals that could harm a baby's health.
Tainted Baby Formula and Baby Food
Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden recently found nine baby formulas and baby foods contained unhealthy levels of arsenic. Although these tainted baby formulas and foods were found in Europe, they were manufactured by well-known companies that market their items around the world, including Nestle and Mead Johnson.
Arsenic can be particularly toxic to babies, causing problems such as developmental delays, decreased intelligence, blindness, skin problems, bone deformities, blood vessel damage, anemia, gastrointestinal problems and a greater risk of cancer. Researchers pointed out that rice-based baby food is more likely to contain high levels of arsenic, because rice absorbs more arsenic from the soil than other grains do.
There's also concern about the amount of other heavy metals in baby food, especially lead and cadmium. Like arsenic, these metals are found in the soil and can contaminate grains and other foods used to make baby food.
Cadmium in Baby Food?
One 1999 study found disturbingly high levels of cadmium in baby food samples. In this study, soy-based baby formulas had six times greater concentrations of cadmium than cow's milk formulas -- and those that contained cereal also had higher levels than those without it. No one knows exactly what affects cadmium has on babies, but in adults it causes liver and kidney damage, softening and weakening of the bones -- and increases the risk of cancer.
Tainted baby food and formula that contains heavy metals isn't the only concern. Some infant formulas and foods contain high levels of essential elements such as iron and magnesium, which may go beyond what's needed for health.
Unhealthy Baby Food: The Bottom Line?
Hopefully, there will be better regulation and testing of baby food and formulas to ensure foods high in heavy metals aren't put on store shelves. Until then, breastfeed your baby if possible to lower their exposure to heavy metals -- and avoid infant formulas and foods that contain rice. Look for ones containing other grains such as barley. Look for baby formulas made from cow's milk, since they may have lower heavy metal concentrations than soy-based formulas. Choose wisely. Your baby's health could depend upon it.
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Food Production Daily. "Study Raises Concerns about Trace Elements in Baby Foods"