Attorney General Asks FDA to Create Standards for Baby Food As Companies Face Lawsuits for Heavy Metals

New York State Attorney General Letitia James wrote a letter on Tuesday to Dr. Janet Woodcock, Acting Commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding a recent report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy which said there are dangerous levels of heavy and toxic metals in baby foods, specifically arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.  James asked the FDA to implement the recommendations found in the report. 

“Right now, parents across the nation are unknowingly feeding their babies dangerous, toxic metals because these companies are not doing their due diligence to protect our children,” said Attorney General James in a press release. “This shouldn’t be controversial, this shouldn’t even be a question, unsafe levels of arsenic and other toxic metals do not belong in baby food.”

The attorney general explained in the letter that she is concerned about the effects of the metals on families in her state and asked the FDA to create standards for baby food as it does for other consumer products. Reportedly, the FDA recently set a regulated level for 100 parts per billion of arsenic in rice for baby food, which is higher than the 10 parts per billion amount allowed in bottled water, however, James claimed the subcommittee report shows this is not being sufficiently enforced. 

“In the absence of FDA leadership and oversight, baby food manufacturers have been able to set their own internal standards for levels of toxic metals including lead, cadmium, and mercury, in their products,” James said in the letter. The attorney general reported that these internal standards are higher than studies suggest and are not being followed consistently. 

Since the House Subcommittee report was released last week, there have been multiple class-action complaints filed against baby food companies, specifically three of the companies which responded to the subcommittee’s request and submitted reports Gerber, Hain Celestial Group, and Beech-Nut Nutrition Company. 

Last week, Gerber received a complaint in the New Jersey District Court and Beech-Nut received a complaint in the Northern District of New York, both asked the court to award damages to those who purchased baby food produced by the companies, enjoin the companies from selling foods with those levels of heavy metals, and require the companies to disclose heavy metal amounts. 

On Monday and Tuesday, Hain received at least three lawsuits, one of them which was filed in the Northern District of Illinois listed Gerber as an additional defendant. The lawsuit alleged that the companies “knew that the presence of toxic heavy metals in their baby food was a material fact to consumers, yet omitted and concealed that fact from consumers.” Aileen Garces, the plaintiff in the suit, claimed that the two companies should not be allowed to keep money they received from their purportedly misleading practices and that the money should be returned to the class.