Even baby food labeled as “organic” can have a high concentration of heavy metals

Michael Bartlett

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on December 22nd, 2021

Many of the baby food companies that were found to sell products contaminated with alarming concentrations of heavy metals have the word "organic" in their name, which can be very misleading for consumers. What criteria should baby food meet to be considered truly organic?

Out of the seven baby food manufacturers whose products were found to contain high amounts of cadmium, arsenic, lead, and mercury, four have the term "organic" in their names, and many others have it on the label of their infant and toddler food. Some examples in this respect are Earth's Best Organic and Plum Organics. As for baby food products, we have Parent's Choice Organic Strawberry Rice Rusks and Beech-Nut Organics Just Carrots, for instance. However, some of these companies may be misusing the word just to earn the trust of consumers, even though their products are far from being nutritious and safe for developing children.

It seems that over recent decades, the word "organic" has been thrown around so much that it almost lost its meaning. For a product to classify as truly organic, it must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients, whereas the remaining 5% can be non-organic. When it comes to baby food, the forbidden ingredients and practices in a supposedly organic product are as follows:

  • artificial fertilizers
  • synthetic pesticides
  • herbicides
  • additives
  • genetic manipulation
  • food irradiation
  • antibiotics
  • growth hormones
  • minimum use of drugs

For ingredients to be deemed as organic, they have to meet the standards of the United States Department of Agriculture to earn this label. Moreover, the producer must go through a certification process. The federal agency establishes standards for livestock, crops, and multi-ingredient foods. There are four labels concerning the term "organic" given by the United States Department of Agriculture, namely:

  • 100% organic, when the product contains exclusively organic ingredients
  • organic, when it contains 95% organic ingredients
  • made with organic ingredients, when the product contains 70% organic ingredients
  • contains organic ingredients, when it has less than 70% organic ingredients

The organic ingredients in baby food can also contain heavy metals

While the majority of the problematic baby food companies meet the standards necessary to label their products as "organic", or at least their internal documents claim so, this does not mean their products cannot contain heavy metals. Because even crops grown organically can absorb cadmium, arsenic, lead, and mercury from soil and water and from pesticides and insecticides, it is possible that the ingredients that end up in the baby food on the market have excessive amounts of heavy metals. Regardless of how a crop is taken care of and grown, there is, unfortunately, no way of stopping it from taking in heavy metals through the roots.

The congressional report that was made public last winter brought to light the fact that, since heavy metals usually stem from soil and water, even certified organic products can and do contain these neurotoxins. Based on the typical amount of heavy metals in the main ingredients, the following are some of the most toxic baby foods that are also organic:

  • Beech-Nut Organics Just Carrots
  • Earth's Best Organic Whole Grain Rice Cereal
  • Earth's Best Organic Spinach and Potato Baby Food
  • Plum Organics Mighty Morning Bar

In conclusion, organic does not mean free of heavy metals. Scientists have known since the 1920s that organic fertilizers used by agricultural workers to supplement conventional systems - composted animal manure, rock phosphates, fish emulsions, guano, and wood ashes - further contaminate the soil with various concentrations of heavy metals.

Today, heavy metals can be found even in certified organic foods, superfoods, vitamins, herbs, and dietary supplements at unsettling levels. Neither the United States Department of Agriculture nor the Food and Drug Administration has set any limits on the presence of heavy metals in baby foods and organic foods, but the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 may be a sliver of hope in this regard.

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