Poster Topical Area: Maternal, Perinatal and Pediatric Nutrition

Location: Hall D

Poster Board Number: 310

P13-052 - Heavy Metal Contamination in a Large Sample of United States Infant Formulas and Baby Foods

Sunday, Jun 10
8:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Objectives: Data is lacking on heavy metal contamination in baby food, a population uniquely susceptible to the neurotoxic and carcinogenic effects of mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium. The goal of this study was to examine heavy metal levels in US baby foods, and identify the most contaminated product types and potentially responsible ingredients.

In total 564 baby foods were tested across infant and toddler formula, cereals, meals, juices/drinks, jars, pouches, snacks, and electrolyte water. ICP-MS analysis of lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium was completed using a modified version of EPA method 6020A. Samples were analyzed using kinetic energy distribution mode. The heavy metal distributions were examined, and non-parametric tests were performed to identify characteristics (organic, food type, first five ingredients) associated with heavy metal concentrations.

Among the 564 products tested, 476 (84%) contained at least trace amounts of heavy metals: 37% contained lead (maximum=183.60µg/kg), 65% arsenic (maximum=662.73µg/kg), 57% cadmium (maximum=103.90µg/kg), 4% mercury (maximum=5.79µg/kg). There was no association between whether the product was organic and its heavy metal levels. Cereals and snacks contained the highest levels. Among the products with detectable mercury, 81% contained rice. Products containing rice were also higher in arsenic, lead, and cadmium; wheat and quinoa were independently predictive of cadmium; and oat ingredients were associated with elevated arsenic and cadmium.

Grain-based baby foods had the highest levels of heavy metals, particularly rice. The long-term effects of chronic daily low level heavy metal exposure in vulnerable babies remains poorly understood. This study adds to a growing body of literature suggesting the need for public health recommendations regarding rice consumption in babies.

Funding Source: Clean Label Project

CoAuthors: Jaclyn Bowen – Clean Label Project; Sean Callan – Ellipse Analytics

Hannah Gardener

Associate Scientist
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
Miami, Florida