Beech-Nut Nutrition officials ordered the recall of some of its infant rice cereals from stores across the United States after some samples were found to contain excessive levels of arsenic, a toxic chemical for humans if ingested in large quantities. Additionally, the company said it would cease all production of the product after fears it will not be able to comply with federal limits on the chemical and other elements considered heavy metals.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented a limit on the level of naturally occurring inorganic arsenic last year. The agency posted a notice warning companies of the risk elevated levels of these elements pose to young children. In April, the FDA announced plans to further limit the arsenic, lead, and mercury content in baby food.
Beech-Nut issued the voluntary recall because of the discovery of high concentrations of the toxic chemicals in a routine sampling by the state of Alaska, the company's Vice President of Food Safety and Quality, Jason Jacobs, said in a statement. He added the small sample of products were found to have arsenic levels above the guidelines of the FDA, CBS News reported.
In February, a congressional report discovered several manufacturers across the United States had baby food products with high levels of toxic heavy metals. The elements found included lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury and were found in "significant levels." Officials warned the chemicals could negatively affect the brain development of babies and toddlers.
No cases of illnesses or side effects have been reported in relation to the discovered high levels of toxic chemicals, Beech-Nut officials said.
Toxic chemicals in baby food products have been known by experts for many years, the Director of Food Policy's Brian Ronholm said. Officials implemented strict guidelines and restrictions to avoid the potential risk of having high levels of toxic elements in the products young children consume.
Previously, Consumer Reports has recommended to Congress the 2021 Baby Food Safety Act, which requires the FDA to implement much stricter guidelines on heavy metals in baby food products, including lead and mercury, Texas News Today reported.
Threat to Young Children
Similar to Beech-Nut, other baby food manufacturers have been discovered to have high levels of toxic chemicals in their products. The list of companies includes Walmart, Gerber, Hain Celestial, and Nurture Inc.
The FDA said the elements, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury are able to stay in the environment for decades after the use of pesticide and herbicide, Consumer Reports Senior Staff Scientist Michael Hansen said.
Baby foods more frequently contain higher levels of toxic metals due to the vitamins and minerals added to the products during processing, Hansen said. A common ingredient in baby food, rice, is also known to have high levels of arsenic. The element comes from the soil and dissolves in water when rice is grown, USA Today reported.
Parents worried for their children's safety are encouraged to switch to unprocessed fruits and vegetables instead, Hansen said. Additionally, the FDA recommends parents give babies a variety of grain-based cereals instead of the ones made with rice.