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FDA proposes new limits on lead in baby food

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On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration proposed new limits on lead in baby foods to reduce exposure to a toxin that could impair a child’s development.

Lead limits apply to processed foods consumed by children under two years of age. FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Kaliff said in a statement that the restrictions would reduce lead exposure from these products by as much as 27%.

The proposed lead limits are not legally binding on the industry, but the FDA said it would 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 concentration limits for lead in baby food:

  • 10 ppb for fruits, vegetables, yogurts, custards and puddings, mixes and meats from one ingredient. This will reduce the impact by 26%.
  • 20 ppb for root crops. This will reduce the impact by 27%.
  • 20 ppb for dry cereals. This will reduce exposure by 24%.

Lead is toxic and especially dangerous to young children. This can lead to impaired development of the brain and nervous system, resulting in learning disabilities and behavioral difficulties.

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

According to the FDA, food consumed by children may contain lead due to contaminated water or soil, industrial activities, and old lead-containing equipment used for food preparation. The agency said it was not possible to completely eliminate lead from food, but restrictions should encourage industry to take action to reduce its presence as much as possible.

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