‘Closer to Zero’ Plan to Reduce Toxic Metals in Baby Food Released by FDA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a plan to reduce childrens’ exposure to toxic elements through consumption of baby foods on Thursday known as “Closer to Zero.” A statement from the FDA explained that protecting babies and young children is a high priority for the agency. The plan seeks to keep levels of toxic substances in baby foods at the “lowest possible levels.”

“We have prioritized babies and young children because their smaller body sizes and metabolism make them more vulnerable to the harmful effects of these contaminants,” the introduction to the plan explained.

This plan comes as a response to a House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy report in February claiming that baby foods contain “dangerous levels” of toxic elements, including inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. This report also led to many legal complaints against baby food manufacturers, including some filed this week, which may be consolidated into one multidistrict matter. The FDA previously announced that it had reached out to baby food companies about the issue.

In a statement on Thursday, the FDA did explain that its testing shows the amount of toxic substances found in foods currently does not provide an immediate health risk to children and infants, but said they “recognize that Americans want zero toxic elements in the foods eaten by their babies and young children.”

The FDA explained that because the elements are in air, water, and soil the amounts cannot be brought down to zero in all instances, leading to the goal to keep levels as close to zero as possible. Additionally, the agency claimed its testing has shown that a significant reduction has already occurred in the amount of toxic elements in food.

The plan contains a “multi-phase, science-based, iterative approach.” The plan includes: evaluating data and establishing interim reference levels (IRLs) for toxic elements, proposing levels specific to toxic elements in baby foods, consulting with stakeholders and federal partners, and eventually finalizing the action levels. Once this phase is completed, the FDA will begin considering a timeline for enforcing the action levels and evaluate whether the levels may change over time.

According to the statement, the plan is simply a part of the FDA’s efforts to reduce exposure to toxic elements through food and research and collaborations will continue. It said, “the FDA is confident that our new plan will help further advance our work in this area.”

 Screenshot of their “Four-stage interactive approach.”
Screenshot of their “Four-stage interactive approach.”