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FDA Plans To Reduce Contaminants In Baby Food

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced Closer to Zero. It is the FDA’s goal to reduce dietary exposure to contaminants to as low as possible, while maintaining access to nutritious foods. The agency’s work to date has resulted in significant progress in reducing exposure to environmental contaminants from foods and Closer to Zero builds on this progress.

The FDA has prioritized foods commonly eaten by babies and young children because their smaller body sizes and metabolism make them more vulnerable to the harmful affects of these contaminants. To meet the goals of Closer to Zero, they have focused their efforts on:

Research and Analysis:

Developing new and improved testing methods to measure lower levels of contaminants in food;

Conducing surveys on foods commonly eaten by infants and young children to understand variability in concentrations of arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury in these foods;

Working with federal partners to identify strategies to reduce contaminant levels in food products;

Evaluating consumption patterns for different populations;

Measuring dietary exposures to these contaminants;

Identifying reference levels for these contaminants to determine levels of concern; and

Understanding how nutrients can help protect against the health effects associated with contaminants.


Establishing action levels;

Increasing targeted compliance and enforcement activities; and 

Monitoring levels over time to determine potential adjustments to proposed action levels


Encouraging adoption of agricultural and processing best practices by industry to lower levels of environmental contaminants in agricultural commodities and products.

The FDA states that reducing levels of contaminants in foods is complicated and multifaceted. It is crucial to ensure that measures taken to limit arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury in foods do not have unintended consequences – like eliminating from the marketplace foods that have significant nutritional benefits or reducing the presence of one element while increasing another.

As action levels are finalized, the FDA will continue to cycle of continual improvement, addressing arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury to evaluate whether downward adjustments of interim reference levels should be made; proposing new action levels, as appropriate; consulting with stakeholders on feasibility, achievability, and other issues; and adjusting (as needed) and finalizing action levels.

ABC News reported that nearly one year after two congressional reports found heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury in popular baby foods, the FDA made a change. 

The FDA’s draft guidance proposes new limits for the amount of lead allowed in processed foods, such as those packaged in jars, pouches and boxes for kids under the age of 2. The new limits would help reduce exposure to lead in those foods by as much as 27%, the agency said.

The FDA’s guidance is not yet final and will go through a review process before being formally adopted, but it is a strong signal to baby food manufacturers that they will likely need to comply with these new levels soon.

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