A shocking number of baby formulas contain arsenic

Lab tests have confirmed that 80 percent of infant formulas contain arsenic, and many baby foods tested positive for lead.

Photo: iStockphoto

Don’t panic, but there’s a good chance your baby’s formula contains arsenic. A new study from the US has found that almost 80 percent of infant formulas and many other baby foods contain arsenic.

The Clean Label Project, a non-profit that performs lab testing on products to keep consumers informed of what they’re buying, tested more than 500 products from 60 brands bought in the past five months, including infant food and formula, and toddler drinks and snacks. The group found that 65 percent of products overall contained arsenic, 36 percent tested positive for lead and 58 percent had cadmium. All of those chemicals that were found in foods can cause problems with a baby’s developing brain, plus arsenic and cadmium are carcinogens. The World Health Organization says arsenic has been linked to infant mortality and has impacts on child health.

The testing also found that 60 percent of the products that claimed to be free of bisphenol A (BPA) did, in fact, contain the chemical.

Some of the worst offenders that the Clean Label Project tested included the common brands Gerber, Enfamil, Plum Organics and Sprout, which all had products that scored poorly for containing toxic metals. Interestingly, certified organic baby food had twice the arsenic as conventional baby products.

While it’s common to find trace amounts of arsenic in some foods—even natural whole foods, like rice (which absorbs the metal from soil) and certain kinds of fish and shellfish (which get arsenic from water)—Clean Label Project found some products showed arsenic levels as high as 600 parts per billion, while the FDA has proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion in infant rice cereal. Health Canada does not have a recommendation for baby cereals, but it does place a limit of 0.1 parts per million in ready-to-serve beverages.

Want to know how your baby’s formula measures up? Take a look at the full results of Clean Label Project’s baby product testing.

Read more:
The dos and don’ts of safe formula feeding
How to combine breastfeeding and bottle-feeding

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