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Baby Food Companies Sued Over Lead


Some of the biggest makers of baby food are facing a lawsuit from an environmental group that seeks to force them to label their products as containing low amounts of lead.

The Environmental Law Foundation claims that Gerber Products, Del Monte Foods, Beech-Nut Nutrition and other makers of baby food and juices are selling products containing lead levels high enough to require warning labels under California Proposition 65. However, lawyers representing the food companies say that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have tested the products named in the lawsuit and determined that lead levels were not high enough to warrant a warning.

Neither side is contesting the fact that baby food containing carrots, peaches, pears and sweet potatoes does contain some lead. Grape juice and fruit cocktail are also a concern. 

Plus: Surprising Lead Hazards

The food companies argue that the lead in fruit and vegetables used to make their products is naturally occurring and not harmful—meaning they should be exempt from warning consumers.

The plaintiffs argue that California law requires food makers to warn consumers about a possible risk of certain toxins, including lead. Even if a toxin is at 1/1000th of the levels considered dangerous to humans, it still requires a warning label, according to the state's Proposition 65. Furthermore, they say no level of lead is considered safe, especially for newborns and pregnant women.

While lead poisoning is preventable, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are approximately 500,000 U.S. children between the ages 1-5 with worrisome levels of lead in their blood. Most children with lead poisoning don't have obvious symptoms until they reach school age. Some with very high lead levels may have stomach pain, headaches, hearing loss, seizures, or anemia. Lead poisoning can cause damage to the brain and the nervous system, behavioral problems, liver and kidney damage, hyperactivity, developmental delays and in extreme cases, death.

Kids are usually exposed to lead via lead-based paint of lead contaminated dust, but in recent years, concerning news about the levels of lead found in juice boxes has come out.

Plus: New Concerns Over Arsenic & Lead Found in Fruit Juice

Would you want to know if there was lead, even miniscule amounts, in the products you were buying? Leave a comment and let us know.