The Baby Food lawsuits claim that numerous baby food products contain toxic heavy metals that can cause serious injuries to infants.
What We Know About the Toxic Baby Food Lawsuits
In 2019, the nonprofit organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures published its report “What’s in My Baby’s Food?” based on a national investigation of baby food brands. The study found that 95% of tested baby food products contain toxic chemicals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. These metals, according to the report, have been shown to lower babies’ IQ, as well as promote other serious effects.
On March 2, 2021, a complaint was filed by multiple plaintiffs who had purchased various brands of baby food found to contain toxic heavy metals and whose children were diagnosed with autism. The list of defendants named in the complaint includes Beech-Nut Nutrition Company Inc., Hain Celestial Group Inc. (“Earth’s Best Organic”), Gerber Products Co., Inc., and Nurture (“Happy Baby” baby food).
The plaintiffs assert the defendants knew their baby food products contained toxic heavy metals and hid this information from consumers. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges the defendants failed to warn the public about the heavy metals and the potential negative health outcome.
The legal claims against the defendants include allegations of failure to warn; breach of implied warranty of merchantability; negligence (adulterated product); and violation of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Toxic Baby Food Injuries & Side Effects
In 2020, the United States House of Representatives conducted an investigation of baby foods. The investigating committee requested test results and internal documents from seven of the largest baby food manufacturers in the U.S. Four of the companies cooperated, and their findings appear in the committee’s published report dated February 4, 2021, titled “Baby Foods Are Tainted With Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, lead, Cadmium, and Mercury.” Three companies—Walmart, Campbell Soup Company, and Sprout Organic Foods—refused to cooperate with the investigation.
Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, chairman of the committee, signed the report finding that baby foods tainted with dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals endanger infant neurological development and long-term brain function, including the following:
- IQ loss
- Attention deficits
- Learning and behavioral impacts
According to the report, low, daily exposures creates “subclinical decrements in brain function” that “diminish quality of life, reduce academic achievement, and disturb behavior, with profound consequences for the welfare and productivity of entire societies.”
The report further breaks down the side effects of each of the heavy metals found in baby foods.
- Arsenic: Bladder, lung, and skin cancer; damages the developing brain and nervous system; IQ deficits; cognitive defects; neurological problems;
- Lead: Brain damage; IQ deficits; attention deficits; behavior problems;
- Cadmium: Neurotoxicity; cancer; kidney, bone, and heart damage; learning disabilities; and
- Mercury: Cardiovascular disease; vision impairment; IQ deficits; memory impairment.
Baby Food Lawsuit Settlements
As of January 18, 2022, there have been no large groups of mass tort settlements involving toxic baby food and the link to childhood neurological injuries. However, litigation likes this generally takes many years to resolve, with teams of lawyers spending millions of dollars trying to determine exactly what occurred, and how it could have been prevented.
Large groups of settlements do not generally occur until such time as a few cases are tried before a jury, and the manufacturer is able to more thoroughly understand its financial risk. The first step in this process is usually having large groups of cases combined in federal court for discovery purposes. This process is known as Multi-District Litigation (known as an MDL).
Timeline of Events Important to the Toxic Baby Food Lawsuits
October 2019: Nonprofit group Healthy Babies Bright Futures published its report, “What’s in My Baby’s Food?” highlighting data from a national investigation of the largest baby food brands and revealing that 95% of the tested products contain toxic chemicals that diminish babies’ IQ.
February 4, 2021: U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Committee on Oversight and Reform published its staff report, “Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury” as a follow-up investigation of the Healthy Babies Bright Futures report.
February 18, 2021: A class-action lawsuit was filed in New York state against Beech-Nut after a woman claims she purchased baby food containing harmful levels of heavy metals at a grocery store in Ramsey, New Jersey.
March 2, 2021: A lawsuit is filed in Nevada against several baby food manufacturers accused of making and selling products with unsafe levels of toxic, heavy metals.
March 25, 2021: Introduction of the “United States Baby Food Safety Act of 2021
April 8, 2021: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announces its “Closer to Zero” action plan for reducing the toxic elements in baby foods.
Toxic Baby Food Lawsuit News
New bill aims to remove dangerous levels of heavy metals in baby food
A group of Democratic lawmakers has introduced new legislation aimed at curbing dangerous levels of heavy metals that have been detected in popular baby food products. To read more, click SILive.com
Baby food companies now facing at least 43 lawsuits over heavy metals
Baby food companies named in a recent Congressional Subcommittee report are now facing at least 43 lawsuits about heavy metals in their wares, according to plaintiffs seeking to consolidate all of the cases in New York. To read more, click Food Navigator
NY Mom, Concerned About Toxic Heavy Metals, Files Class-Action Lawsuit Against Baby Food Companies
Following a report on toxins in baby food released by the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, a New York woman has filed a new class-action baby food lawsuit against Beech-Nut Nutrition Company, The Hain Celestial Group, Inc., Nurture Inc., Gerber Products Company, and Plum PBC. To read more, click New York Injury Law News
Nevada parents sue baby food manufacturers
A group of local parents is suing four national baby food manufacturers after a congressional report released last month found their popular products are tainted with high levels of toxic metals. To read more, click Las Vegas Review-Journal
Wave of New Class-Action Lawsuits Against Baby Food Manufacturers
A class action was filed against Gerber Products Co. and Hain Celestial Group (Hain) in the North District of Illinois for allegedly omitting and concealing the presence of dangerous levels of heavy metal in the baby food products they sell. To read more, click The National Law Review
FDA and Scientific Studies Regarding Toxic Baby Food
Effects of Inorganic Arsenic in Infant Rice Cereal on Children’s Neurodevelopment
Our results suggest that the IQ losses associated with consumption of arsenic in infant rice cereal are not negligible, and a large portion of the U.S. population is impacted. Our results also show that even relatively small IQ losses per child have significant economic impacts when considered on a national scale. To read more, click Abt Associates
Supporting Document for Action Level for Inorganic Arsenic in Rice Cereals for Infants
Based on a risk assessment on arsenic in rice and rice products, as well as considerations including data on inorganic arsenic levels in infant rice cereals and manufacturer achievability, FDA is establishing an action level for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereals of 100 μg/kg or 100 ppb. This guidance applies to all types of infant rice cereals (e.g., white-rice, brown-rice, organically grown, and conventionally grown). To read more, click U.S. Food & Drug Administration
Human exposure to dietary inorganic arsenic and other arsenic species: State of knowledge, gaps and uncertainties
Inorganic arsenic (iAs) is ubiquitous in the environment as arsenite (AsIII) and arsenate (AsV) compounds and biotransformation of these toxic chemicals leads to the extraordinary variety of organoarsenic species found in nature. Despite classification as a human carcinogen based on data from populations exposed through contaminated drinking water, only recently has a need for regulatory limits on iAs in food been recognized. To read more, click Sci Total Environ.
For children’s food, heavy metals require more attention and better standards
In June 2017, EDF released Lead in Food: A Hidden Health Threat. The report examined a decade’s worth of data from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and found lead detected in 20% of baby food samples compared to 14% for other foods. To read more, click Environmental Defense Fund.
Dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic in the European population
For all the age classes except infants and toddlers, the main contributor to dietary exposure to iAs was the food group ‘Grain-based processed products (non-rice-based)’, in particular, wheat bread and rolls. Other food groups that were important contributors to iAs exposure were rice, milk and dairy products (main contributor in infants and toddlers), and drinking water. To read more, click European Food Safety Authority.
Arsenic in Rice and Rice Products Risk Assessment Report
The literature also suggests that exposure to inorganic arsenic during infancy and early childhood can have neurotoxic effects, although whether these effects are lasting is unclear. At this time, a quantitative assessment of non-cancer health effects associated with arsenic exposure in utero (through maternal intake) and during infancy and early childhood has not yet been conducted. To read more, click U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Arsenic in 9 Brands of Infant Cereal. A national survey of arsenic contamination in 105 cereals from leading brands
We tested infant cereal made by Gerber, Earth’s Best, BeechNut, Nestlé, and five other brands. All but one of the 42 containers of infant rice cereal we tested had more arsenic than any of the 63 other cereals included in our study. To read more, click Healthy Babies Bright Futures.