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Is Baby Food Safe?

Posted on Nov 06, 2017

Rachel Dawkins, M.D.

A recent article found that many baby foods tested positive for arsenic and other contaminates. Rachel Dawkins, M.D., from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, provides information about these findings and the safety of the foods our infants are eating.

What should parents know about this study?

It’s important to understand that “testing positive” for something is not always helpful information. Many of these compounds like arsenic occur in nature. There is no way to eliminate some natural compounds, like arsenic, from foods but there are thresholds we use for safety of foods we ingest.

Are there any compounds that would be dangerous for babies to ingest?

Yes. There is no safe level of lead in food for children.

What harm can these toxins have on children?

Kids tend to be at higher risk in general (for any exposure) because of their higher exposure relative to weight, and because they are rapidly growing and developing. High levels of arsenic can cause effects on many organ systems (including: lungs, skin, kidneys and liver and certain types of cancers. Lead can be associated with learning disabilities, decrease in IQ, anemia and behavioral problems. BPA is an industrial chemical that can have endocrine or hormonal effects. Many toxins do not show effects until a child has been exposed over a long period of time.

With this type of risk, what do you advise for parents to feed their babies?

  • Rice products do tend to be higher in arsenic, so parents can vary the type of grains they give infants (rice, oat, barley, etc). Exclusive breastfeeding for the first few months is optimal if possible.
  • It is also important to note that organic does not mean free of all contaminants. Parents should know what is in their baby's food no matter how fancy or expensive it is.
This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.​

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