In light of a recent wave of media coverage related to a report stating that “alarming” levels of arsenic, lead and cadmium were found in baby food, we called a pediatric nutrition expert to help us navigate this news cycle. Dr. Keith T. Ayoob, a pediatric nutritionist and registered dietitian at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, answered our questions about the safety of baby food currently on the market today. Here are Dr. Ayoob’s tips for parents:
Based on the recent report, is there any reason to change a child’s diet?
Not really. I wouldn’t change my recommendations about baby food, infant formula or a child’s diet based on one report.
I also have strong concerns about it. It’s not clear why the study and results were not submitted to a peer-reviewed journal of experts where toxicologists and other professionals could review the data, the findings and the context for the conclusions. For example, what trace amounts of metal have been found in baby food? So, if they are detected in baby food, is this something new? Wouldn’t the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pull these products off the market? Wouldn’t we see a public health outbreak? My experience and skills tell me this is not something new or anything to be alarmed about. Peer-review would help ensure that any conclusions would be placed in the proper context whereas this latest incredible-to-believe piece of work got smeared across our media and news outlets without any context for the consumer.
It troubles me to see the rapid spread of misinformation as a clinician who sees children regularly. I have the responsibility for giving evidence-based advice to parents and caregivers of all economic and cultural backgrounds. Just as troubling is an organization can advocate for “greater transparency” on labels, yet doesn’t make their own data available.
Some might think differently and want to make their own baby food. What are your recommendations?
It is fine for parents to make their own baby food as long as it is made in a sterile environment. Sometimes babies really like the flavorings of homemade baby foods; however, safe baby food is critically important. Baby food and formula are made in facilities that pass rigorous safety inspections, and unfortunately, most home kitchens wouldn’t come close to those standards for safety and quality. Food safety is everyone’s responsibility including parents who want to make their own baby food.
What are your final recommendations?
Parents need to know that various government agencies, including the FDA, the EPA and the USDA, continually monitor for excessive levels of contaminants in our food. Should levels exceed the current FDA guidance levels, companies will have to immediately act to ensure only the safest product is available for you to feed your children. Keep in mind that facts in context are more useful than misguided fear.
For more information on low-level, naturally occurring compounds in food, check out the following IFIC resources:
Dr. Keith Ayoob, Ed. D., is an associate clinical professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York.