Lawmakers target heavy metals in baby food with new legislation

May 9, 2024

A pair of Democratic senators introduced new legislation to limit the levels of harmful metals in commercial baby food, they announced Thursday.

The bill, called “The Baby Food Safety Act of 2024,” would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new authority to enforce higher safety standards for commercial baby food and imported products.

It also increases safety standards and requires more complete testing by manufacturers for toxic heavy metals — including lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury — allowed in baby food.

“All parents deserve to have confidence that the baby and toddler food they feed their children is safe and nutritious, but reports that many commonly sold products could contain harmful substances like lead that pose risks to our babies are deeply troubling,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who introduced the legislation with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

“Parents want what’s best for their children, and they deserve peace of mind knowing the food they purchase for their babies and toddlers is safe,” Klobuchar said.

The legislation follows a series of efforts to call on the FDA to address reports showing high levels of heavy metals in baby foods.

Three years ago, the Democratic duo introduced a similar bill in response to a House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy report showing that “some baby foods are tainted with dangerous levels of lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium.” The bill focused on “holding manufacturers accountable” for reducing heavy metals in baby food.

Multiple times in the years since, lawmakers have called on the FDA to do more to address high levels of heavy metals. They wrote to the FDA after a report documented “high levels of the neurotoxin inorganic arsenic in 3 popular rice cereal baby foods,” and also after hundreds of children showed “extremely high blood levels of lead” that led to the recall of some apple cinnamon puree pouches.

The legislation was introduced in tandem with a House companion bill led by Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.).

“As a father, I understand the immense responsibility we have to protect our children,” Cárdenas said. “That’s why I’m proud to join this bicameral common-sense effort that will lead to more thorough oversight and will demand accountability from baby food manufacturers. Every American parent deserves the peace of mind of knowing that the baby food they provide is safe and free from harmful substances that could impact their child’s health in the long term.”

The Hill has contacted the FDA for comment.