Baby Food Companies Being Sued For Lead Levels
April 8, 2013

Baby Food Companies Being Sued For Lead Levels

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

An environmental group has leveled a lawsuit against a group of baby food makers aimed at forcing the companies to put warning labels on products sold in California.

Gerber Products, Del Monte Foods, Beech-Nut Nutrition and other baby foods and juices are being sued by the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) for selling products that contain lead at levels that require warning labels under California Proposition 65. However, lawyers for the companies say the US Food and Drug Administration tested products targeted in the lawsuit, and the levels fell below the standards that would require a warning.

Lead exposure to a child could damage the brain and lead to a lower IQ level. Although lead poisoning in the US has declined, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than 500,000 US children are believed to have lead poisoning.

Toxicologist Barbara G. Callahan, PhD, DABT, of the University of Massachusetts Amhers says the lead concentrations in the original ELF test results are "alarming."

ELF collected and tested every brand in each category it could find in California. These tests included over 400 samples of 146 different brands. They found that each of the children's food products contained enough lead in a single serving to require a consumer warning.

"Scientists agree that there is no safe level of exposure to lead. Lead accumulates in the body from multiple exposures over time and from multiple sources. Lead exposure among children is a particular concern because their developing bodies absorb lead at a higher rate and because children are particularly sensitive to lead´s toxic effects, including decreased IQ," EFL said.

"Lead exposure also represents a heightened risk among pregnant and nursing women because lead passes from the mother to the developing fetus or infant. Lead already stored in the mother´s bone tissue is mobilized along with calcium, and additional lead exposure to the mother can further compromise the health of the vulnerable developing fetus or infant," EFL continued.

The companies say the lead in fruit and vegetables used in the products is naturally occurring, which would exempt them from having to warn consumers.

"Despite the trace amounts of lead in the products at issue, the federal government has determined that Americans need to eat more – not less – of these nutritious foods," the companies' attorney, Michele Corash, wrote in court documents. "FDA recently reiterated its conclusion that the trace levels of lead in the products at issue in this case do not pose unacceptable health risks."