You wouldn’t intentionally give your baby potentially hazardous ingredients in her baby food, but there have been some puzzling findings in the juvenile food industry that have put parents on alert.
It turns out non-food things can squeak into baby food or infant formula production; and sometimes, these fall under government-mandated maximum levels. This means that yes, sometimes there are questionable substances in foods we feed our babies, they’re not on the label and as long as the levels are low enough, manufacturers are operating legally.
Being an educated consumer, however, means that we can make better decisions about what we feed our kids. We combed through info from the FDA and CDC to uncover some of the things that those agencies have discovered about the quality and contents of baby food, and here are the ones that stick out the most.
Most recently, the FDA has proposed a limit on the amount of arsenic in rice baby cereal. Rice is a crop that is unfortunately more prone to sucking up arsenic from the earth, which is a natural source of the potentially deadly substance. While it may be surprising that there needs to be a limit on arsenic in baby food in the first place, on the other hand, it’s not altogether shocking. Infants consume more rice products than adults do, considering that rice cereal is a common first solid-food recommendation. If you’re worried, you can feed your child other types of iron-fortified infant cereals (such as oatmeal or barley) instead of or in addition to rice cereal.
A chemical called perchlorate, which is found in fireworks, explosives, rocket fuel and road flares, has also been found in infant formula. The CDC does maintain its recommendation that parents choose to breastfeed their babies, but it also notes that all infant formulas in the U.S. are mandated to include iodine, which may counter any potential negative effects of this chemical.
The FDA routinely screens products to see if there is any undesirable material housed within, and in 2010, it found that many of the products it was testing that were meant for children contained trace amounts of lead — and some of these products were intended for babies. While this may be concerning, the FDA maintains that the amounts found are below dangerous levels.
While just about anything can become contaminated due to faulty manufacturing processes or during handling, sometimes bacteria can hang out in a dry environment, which can be pretty surprising. Cronobacter is one example, and it has been found in powdered infant formula in the past. While infection with cronobacter is rare, it can be serious. The CDC recommends breastfeeding, or if that is not desired or possible, they suggest using liquid baby formula (not powdered) when your baby is very young, as those are sterile upon purchase.