Consumer Reports alert: Baby foods could contain heavy metals

Consumer Reports tests 50 products

New testing from Consumer Reports revealed baby food may contain toxins that lead to behavioral problems, lower IQs and other health risks. 

Baby cereals, snacks, and packaged fruits and vegetables -- all common foods parents give to their kids -- also can contain high levels of inorganic arsenic, cadmium and lead, according to Consumer Reports' testing.

"Children are going through development, particularly their neurological systems. And those elements could adversely affect their proper development," says James Dickerson, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at Consumer Reports. 

Long-term exposure to those heavy metals increases the risk of serious health problems, including cancer and Type 2 diabetes.

Consumer Reports tested 50 products including baby cereals, packaged fruit and vegetables, packaged entrees, cookies, and other snacks often fed to infants and toddlers. About two-thirds were found to contain inorganic arsenic, lead and cadmium above levels associated with potential health risks. Snack foods and products made with rice fared the worst.

"Certain plants, like rice, naturally take up these heavy elements more so than others plants," Dickerson says.

Heavy metals occur naturally in soil and water. So don’t think that buying organic will help. Products labeled organic were just as likely to contain the heavy metals as conventional ones. 

So, what can you do to minimize exposure and protect your children and yourself from dangerous heavy metals?

"Just because you’ve been feeding them these types of foods doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily have a specific adverse response," Dickerson says. "Reduce the amounts they consume per day or per week. And if you’re really concerned about it, talk to your doctor."

To reduce the amount of heavy metals your children are exposed to, Consumer Reports recommends limiting the amount of infant rice cereal and packaged snacks they eat and encouraging them to consume a broad array of healthful whole foods.

To review the full results of Consumer Reports' testing, click here.