The content of heavy metals and hydroxymethylfurfural in infant food and formula

Michael Bartlett

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on January 24th, 2022

A recent study evaluated the presence of minerals, toxic elements, and hydroxymethylfurfural in infant food and formula. Researchers examined 32 infant products manufactured by different companies, selected through convenience sampling from local pharmacies and supermarkets.

The toxic substances and elements in infant food and formula can be neo-formed contaminants or derived from raw materials or processing. For instance, cadmium, arsenic, lead, and mercury often end up in these products because they were absorbed by crops from soil and water. However, in addition to assessing the concentration of heavy metals in infant food and formula, this study also tested the products for hydroxymethylfurfural, a food improvement agent, mainly used in the form of a food additive as a biomarker and as a flavoring agent. Like heavy metals, exposure to hydroxymethylfurfural has numerous negative consequences on human health, including cytotoxicity toward mucous membranes, the skin, and the upper respiratory tract, mutagenicity, chromosomal aberrations, and carcinogenicity.

There are multiple reasons why infants are more susceptible to experiencing the negative health effects of toxic agents in food, such as:

  • a higher rate of uptake by the gastrointestinal tract
  • an incompletely developed blood-brain barrier
  • an undeveloped detoxification system
  • a high food consumption relative to body mass

Cadmium, arsenic, lead, and mercury are contaminants that can accumulate in infant food through the food chain, during food processing, or leakage from packaging materials. Their impact on infants depends on the nature and concentration of the element concerned, as some elements are essential for the human diet, while others can be highly toxic. Hydroxymethylfurfural is a neo-formed contaminant in food, resulting from a series of reactions, starting with a reaction between a free amino group and the carbonyl group of a reducing sugar, or it can stem from the direct dehydration of sugars. Although it is not present in fresh food, hydroxymethylfurfural is found in processed foods such as jams, fruit juices, and syrups.

What are the key findings of this study?

The purpose of the study was to assess the content of minerals, toxic metals, and hydroxymethylfurfural in infant food and formula. This provided researchers with a very useful insight concerning the potential effects of undesirable substances within a vulnerable group.

Accordingly, 32 infant foods from 4 different companies were randomly selected via convenience sampling from local pharmacies and supermarkets and categorized as apple, pear, prune, fish, and poultry. 6 infant formulae from 3 different manufacturers were randomly collected from local pharmacies and were categorized as beginner infant formulae for children between 0 and 6 months and formulae for children between 6 and 12 months. The content of hydroxymethylfurfural was determined according to a spectrophotometric method. These are the most relevant findings of this research:

  • the infant food was found to have various amounts of hydroxymethylfurfural, ranging from 0.89 mg/kg to 144 mg/kg, with the lowest content being present in poultry-based infant foods and the highest content being present in prune-based products
  • the hydroxymethylfurfural content in infant formula ranged from 0.29 mg/kg to 7.87 mg/kg when examined at room temperature, but the content in all infant formulae considerably increased after being stored at 30 degrees Celsius for 21 days and subsequently ranged from 1.80 mg/kg to 9.43 mg/kg
  • the heavy metals and trace elements were discovered in all infant food and formula samples examined, except for mercury, which was detected only in one sample from the pear-based infant food category
  • it was observed that infant food contained manganese, zinc, iron, copper, and chromium, while infant formula contained zinc, iron, copper, manganese, and chromium in decreasing order, and there was a low amount of nickel

Even though ensuring food quality is the manufacturer's responsibility, authorities worldwide do not control food products for safety. Multiple reports have shown that baby food may contain contaminants, including microorganisms, mycotoxin, aromatic compounds, furans, and metals. There is no limit for hydroxymethylfurfural content in food, apart from honey at 40 mg/kg in usual environmental conditions, 80 mg/kg for honey produced in tropical climates, and 15 mg/kg for honey with low enzymatic activity. This makes it difficult to determine whether acceptable or excessive levels of this substance are found in the tested foods.

This is just another study that confirms the presence of heavy metals and other contaminants of concern in baby food, namely in infant food, which only worsens the situation, as newborns are even more vulnerable to the negative impact of heavy metals than toddlers. For this reason, we advise you to pay close attention to the products you feed your baby, as there is a strong connection between toxic baby food and the risk of autism spectrum disorders, among other health problems in children. To find out which companies manufacture baby food with heavy metals and see which specific products are contaminated, visit the page linked above. Until the baby food containing toxic metals is off the shelves, parents should be very cautious with regard to what they feed their infants and toddlers.

Our skilled and experienced attorneys will help you file a toxic baby food claim

If you gave your child baby food with heavy metals and they later developed autism, we advise you to contact our team, as you might be entitled to financial compensation on behalf of your child.

To determine whether you are eligible, you will only have to explain your situation in detail after you call us and send our experts a copy of the medical records of your child.

Our resourceful attorneys will carefully review your case, and you will eventually know whether you can file a toxic baby food claim.

Eligible parents will only have to invest time in the legal process during the preliminary steps, as we will do the difficult and challenging work for you. We are aware that parents of children with autism often require more time to provide healthcare and take care of their children's treatment, so you can leave everything to us. After claim submission, you will receive the money you are entitled to from the liable companies, which can help you with matters such as your child's treatment, among others.