Lead in Baby Food Investigation Leads to Lawsuit

Lead in Baby Food Investigation Leads to Lawsuit

The Oakland, California based Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) conducted an investigation into baby food, packaged fruit and juice. A total of 1,500 samples were tested, and many had levels of lead above the limit that California's Proposition 65 law requires for a warning label. Proposition 65, also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, requires warning labels on any products which contain chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. California is the only state with a right-to-know law that requires companies to put warnings on their products. Companies that violate the law are subject to a fine of $2,500 a day. Three quarters of the baby food tested contained lead amounts between two and 29 micrograms per serving, above the .5 micrograms per serving limit of Prop 65.

In 2010, ELF filed notices of violation of Prop 65. A year later, the organization filed a lawsuit in 2011 in the state Superior Court in Alameda, which demanded that the 16 companies whose products contained lead, according to the tests conducted, put Prop 65 warnings on their products. A judge began hearing testimony in the case earlier this month for the four-week trial.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences describes lead as a "highly toxic metal." Young children absorb lead more easily and sustain more harm, according to the Mayo Clinic. A toxicologist, Barbara G. Callahan, Ph.D of the University of Massachusetts, called the lead amounts found in the ELF investigation "alarming." Callahan pointed out that "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 I.Q."

"Lead already stored in the mother’s bone tissue is mobilized along with calcium,” added Callahan, "and additional lead exposure to the mother can further compromise the health of the most vulnerable among us."

The specific food product categories found in the lawsuit are grape juice, packaged pears and peaches, fruit cocktail, and baby foods containing carrots, peaches, pears and sweet potatoes. A list of the specific baby foods, packaged fruit and juice that the ELF investigation found to contain lead are posted on the organization's website. The ELF's 2013 Baby Food Guide lists which baby food products to avoid, and ones that are safe.

Photo Credit: Danny Mualim

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