At least one sample in 52 of the 57 types of food evaluated had detectable lead and eight types of baby food were found to contain lead in 40 per cent of their samples as well. The types of baby food most affected included grape, apple, pear and mixed fruit juices; root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and carrots; and arrowroot cookies and teething biscuits. Numerous samples tested by FDA are already either lead-free (according to the limits of detection in the analyses used) or have low lead content.
While the amount of lead found in most samples was tiny, Sarah Vogel, vice president for health at the Environmental Defense Fund, said the results were "concerning" especially for children younger than 6.
Lead was found in fruit juices showing up in 89 percent of grape juice samples. Exposure at a young age can permanently affect a developing brain, causing lifelong behavioral problems and lower IQ.
The Environmental Defense Fund found the lead through an analysis of 11 years of federal data.
In the report, the EDF recommends a long list of actions to the FDA and manufacturers in order to reduce the risk of lead in food.
A new study developed by the Environmental Defense Fund found traces of lead in many samples of baby food. It's also unclear why baby foods would have more lead than adult foods and why some products within a food category could test negative while others had relatively high amounts.
None of the lead levels exceeded current government safety standards, although the researchers contend that government standards don't exactly adhere to scientific research. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reduced the definition of elevated blood levels in children from 10 to 5 μg/dL.
The FDA released a statement saying it is "in the process of reevaluating the analytical methods it uses for determining when it should take action with respect to measured levels of lead in particular foods, including those consumed by infants and toddlers". Companies need to investigate, he said. "The FDA's goal is to protect human health by ensuring that consumer exposure is limited to the greatest extent feasible".
The researchers, though, noted that not all lead in soil is naturally occurring. Pesticides are chemicals used to thwart insects and are often considered toxic.
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. Scientists say there is no safe level of lead, and lead in baby food can elevate the level of lead in the bloodstream, potentially leading to developmental problems or other health issues down the road.
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