On April 29, 2021, New York Attorney (AG) General Letitia James announced she has requested information from multiple baby food companies regarding high levels of inorganic arsenic discovered in infant rice cereal products.
James sent letters to Gerber, Beech-Nut, Earth’s Best Organic (Hain), and HappyBABY (Nurture) baby food makers. The AG aims to collect information from each company that will indicate whether the arsenic levels in these infant foods exceed the legal maximum. The probe will also reveal whether the brands’ advertising and promotion of their baby foods is in compliance with New York’s consumer protection laws.
“No child should be exposed to toxic substances in their food,” James is quoted as saying in a press release from the AG office. “Baby food manufacturers have a legal and moral obligation to ensure the safety of their products and provide peace-of-mind to the parents who rely on their products every day. Through this probe, I am committed to protecting the health and wellness of the next generation.”
The AG’s actions come on the heels of a report released February 4, 2021, by the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Committee on Oversight and Reform. The report exposed findings that several commercial baby foods are tainted with “significant levels of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.”
Arsenic is a known carcinogen, and as one study reports, both infant formula and solid baby foods can be sources of arsenic, in particular those products that contain rice. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) says that long-term exposure to arsenic has been linked to several medical conditions, like several forms of cancer.
The House report further explains that the dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals in some widely sold baby food products could cause brain damage and other neurological damage.
James requests the baby food companies provide information on their products’ inorganic arsenic levels. The AG also asks that the companies advise her office on the practices, policies, and standards they implement for testing for inorganic arsenic in their infant rice cereal products and ingredients sold throughout New York. Finally, the baby food makers are expected to supply information regarding advertising materials as they relate to infant rice cereal products, as well as any communications the companies have engaged in with other parties regarding inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal.
Class action lawsuits have been filed against both Gerber, Beech-Nut, and Campbell Soup (Plum Organics) over the toxic contamination in the companies’ baby food products.