Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Report Prompts Progress Towards Stronger Baby Food Safety Standards, But FDA Is Light on Details

Mar 5, 2021
Press Release


Washington, D.C. (Mar. 5, 2021)—Today, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, issued the following statement after the Food and Drug Administration took action on toxic heavy metals in baby foods—just one month after the  Subcommittee released a groundbreaking report:

 

“Today’s announcement sends the message that we will not put up with anyone hurting our kids.  We presented evidence of a pervasive problem of toxic heavy metals in baby foods, and the Biden administration’s FDA began to address it within a month.  This represents a welcome change at FDA.  Now that we have partners in the public health agencies, it’s reason for optimism for what we can accomplish going forward. 

 

“However, we are disappointed that FDA failed to commit to establishing concrete rules to remove toxic heavy metals from all baby foods.  It highlights the need for Congress to pass legislation with strict standards and timelines.  Babies don’t have time to wait for FDA to fill in details.  Parents:  I encourage you to keep pushing for progress with us.”

 

Today, FDA announced its intention to reduce toxic heavy metals in baby food:  “FDA is finalizing a comprehensive plan to further reduce levels of toxic elements in foods for babies and young children.”  FDA sent a letter to industry, putting manufacturers on notice that FDA would use its existing authority under the Food Safety Modernization Act to lower toxic heavy metal levels in baby foods.  FDA’s letter to industry was prompted by the Subcommittee’s report:

 

“in light of a report released on February 4, 2021, by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy that raises important questions on what more can be done to reduce toxic elements in baby food.”

 

Manufacturers will now be expected to institute preventative controls for heavy metals.

FDA also indicated that more extensive regulatory standards will be developed  for the first time in history.

 

Background

 

  • November 6, 2019:  The Subcommittee launched the investigation with requests for documents and information sent to Hain, Nurture, Beech-Nut, Gerber, Walmart, Campbell, and Sprout.

 

  • February 4, 2021:  The Subcommittee issued a report entitled:  “Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury,” finding that:

 

  • Top baby foods are tainted with dangerous levels of inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.

 

  • Industry self-regulation fails to protect consumers as manufacturers set their own dangerously high internal standards for toxic heavy metal levels.

 

  • Manufacturers routinely ignore internal standards and continue to sell products with higher heavy metal levels.

 

  • Manufacturers’ prevalent practice of only testing their ingredients is concealing higher levels of toxic metal in finished baby foods.

 

  • February 16, 2021:  FDA responds publicly to the Subcommittee’s report, issuing a Constituent Update entitled:  “FDA Response to Questions About Levels of Toxic Elements in Baby Food, Following Congressional Report,” echoing the sentiment that the goal should be “to reduce exposure to toxic elements in foods to the greatest extent feasible.”

 

  • February 23, 2021:  Chairman Krishnamoorthi submits text of the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 to FDA for technical review, and opens dialogue for progress in addressing heavy metals in baby foods.

 

  • March 5, 2021: FDA responds to the Subcommittee’s call for action.

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117th Congress