Here's more troubling news as 2021 rolls on. A congressional investigation has found levels of arsenic, lead and other toxic metals that can harm brain development in many popular baby foods, including organic brands.

According to a story reported on by WHDH/7 News Boston and the Associated Press, in a report released Thursday, a U.S. House Subcommittee said it requested internal data from seven companies, including Walmart, in 2019 after a nonprofit called Healthy Babies Bright Futures published results of testing it did on baby foods.

Four of the companies — Gerber, Beech-Nut, Earth’s Best Organics maker Hain Celestial and Happy Family Organics maker Nurture Inc. — shared documents. The subcommittee said Walmart, Sprout Foods and Campbell Soup Co., which makes Plum Organics baby food, didn’t cooperate.

According to Michael Hansen, a senior staff scientist with Consumer Reports, arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury — metals that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers harmful to human health — can remain in the environment for decades from past pesticide and herbicide use.

Toxic metals might be more common in baby foods because of the vitamins and minerals added to those foods during processing, he said. Rice, a common ingredient in baby foods, also tends to have high levels of arsenic. Rice is grown in water, and arsenic from the soil dissolves when it comes in contact with water, he said.

Because babies’ brains are still developing, there is a lot of concern about how those metals could damage that development, Hansen said. By the time symptoms like behavioral problems show up, it can be difficult to trace them back to foods, he said.

Hansen said parents who are concerned should switch to unprocessed fruits and vegetables. The FDA also recommends feeding babies a variety of grain-based cereals, not just those made with rice.

Last August, the FDA finalized guidance for infant rice cereal, recommending it contain no more than 100 parts per billion of arsenic. The subcommittee’s report said Beech-Nut used some ingredients that tested as high as 913 parts per billion for arsenic, while Earth’s Best Organics used ingredients testing as high as 309 parts per billion for arsenic.

n a statement Thursday, the FDA said it takes exposure to toxic elements in the food supply very seriously. The agency said baby food makers have made progress in reducing arsenic in baby food since 2016 when it first proposed setting the 100 ppb guidance.

“We acknowledge that there is more work to be done, but the FDA reiterates its strong commitment to continue to reduce consumer exposure to toxic elements and other contaminants,” the agency said.

For much more information, please check out the initial story at WHDH's website here.

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