Letter follows the recent voluntary recall of an infant rice cereal for testing above the guidance level for a toxic heavy metal

In March, Klobuchar introduced legislation to strictly limit heavy metal levels in baby food

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) led four of her colleagues in a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), urging continued action to eliminate toxic heavy metals in baby food. The letter follows the recent voluntary recall of Beech-Nut Nutrition’s infant rice cereal which tested above the guidance level for inorganic arsenic, a toxic heavy metal. In response, Klobuchar requested the FDA update on their progress in reducing toxic heavy metals in baby food through the agency’s Closer to Zero initiative. 

“Action is needed to ensure that baby food products containing toxic heavy metals are not making it to grocery store shelves and into the homes of families. As you know, even low levels of arsenic exposure can impact a baby’s neurodevelopment...Studies have shown that consuming products with arsenic over time can lead to impaired brain development, growth problems, breathing problems, and a compromised immune system,” the Senators wrote.

Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) signed the letter.

In March, Klobuchar and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced the Baby Food Safety Act to strictly limit the levels of harmful heavy metals in baby food. This legislation — written in response to a House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy report showing that some baby foods are tainted with dangerous levels of lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium — will hold manufacturers accountable for eliminating harmful toxins in infant and toddler food.

Full text of the letter can be found HERE and below.

Dear Acting Commissioner Woodcock:

We write to emphasize the importance of reducing exposure to toxic heavy metals in baby food and urge your continued efforts to swiftly and efficiently finalize action levels that eliminate these toxic heavy metals.

Last week, Beech-Nut Nutrition recalled an infant rice cereal product due to high levels of arsenic. This incident follows a series of investigations revealing that many popular baby foods contain dangerously high levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. One investigation identified baby foods containing up to 91 times, 177 times, 69 times, and 5 times the limits of arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury permitted in bottled drinking water, respectively. 

Action is needed to ensure that baby food products containing toxic heavy metals are not making it to grocery store shelves and into the homes of families. As you know, even low levels of arsenic exposure can impact a baby’s neurodevelopment. Babies have developing brains that are sensitive to harm caused by toxic heavy metals, and their risk from exposure is greater given that they are small, have other developing organ systems, and absorb more heavy metals than adults. Studies have shown that consuming products with arsenic over time can lead to impaired brain development, growth problems, breathing problems, and a compromised immune system.  

This incident involving Beech-Nut’s baby rice cereal demonstrates the importance and continuing need for action levels that eliminate toxic heavy metals in baby food. As the lead federal agency for protecting public health and food safety, we respectfully request you respond to the following questions:

  1. How was the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made aware of the high levels of arsenic detected in the specific Beech-Nut Single Grain Rice item being recalled?
  2. How is the FDA promoting the existing guidance for manufacturers on action levels for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereals?  
  3. Describe the FDA’s process in setting the current action level for arsenic in infant rice cereals that resulted in the recall of the Beech-Nut Single Grain Rice product.
  4. Please provide an update on the status of the FDA’s Closer to Zero initiative and what progress has been made in setting action levels for toxic heavy metals across all baby foods. 

We look forward to updates on your progress in keeping baby food safe and free from toxic heavy metals.

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