Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Many commercial baby foods "are tainted with significant levels of toxic heavy metals," a report released Thursday by a House subcommittee said, raising concerns over the safety of the products industry wide.
According to the staff report by the House subcommittee on economic and consumer policy, leading brands of U.S. baby foods contain dangerous levels of inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury, heavy metals that even at low levels pose particular risk to babies and children, both the U.S. Federal Drug Administration and the World Health Organization have said.
The report was based on internal documents and test results voluntarily submitted to the committee by Nurture, Beech-Nut, Hain and Gerber, showing that the companies were aware that their products were contaminated and to what degree but continued to sell them to unsuspecting parents anyways.
Walmart, Campbell and Sprout Organic refused to participate with the subcommittee's investigation, leading it to have "grave concerns" about the quality of their products, it said.
"The subcommittee is greatly concerned that their lack of cooperation might be obscuring the presence of even higher levels of toxic heavy metals in their baby food products than their competitors' products," the report said.
The report also found that the levels of toxic heavy metals in the foods often exceeded the companies' own internal standards that already permitted dangerously high levels of such contamination.
Arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury were found in food produced by all four companies, the report said, adding they were found at levels "multiples higher" than allowed under existing regulations for other products.
It also said that the administration of former President Donald Trump ignored a secret industry presentation to federal regulators that revealed the increasing risk of heavy metals in baby foods and that product testing was inadequate.
"The Trump FDA took no new action in response," the report said. "To this day, baby foods containing toxic heavy metals bear no label or warning to parents. Manufacturers are free to test only ingredients, or, for the vast majority of baby foods, to conduct no testing at all."
The subcommittee recommended for the FDA to require baby food manufacturers to test their finished products for heavy metals and not just their individual ingredients, for product labels to include levels of toxic heavy metals the foods contain, for the voluntary phase-out of ingredients that contain such metals and for the FDA to set maximum levels of toxic heavy metals permitted in baby foods.
Subcommittee chairman Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., said baby food manufacturers hold public trust and consumers mistakenly believe that they would not sell unsafe products.
"I hope companies will commit to making safer baby foods," he said in a statement. "Regardless, it's time that we develop much better standards for the sake of future generations."
Campbell, which makes baby food under the brand name Plum Organics, said it responded quickly to the subcommittee's questions and that "we are surprised that the committee would suggest that Campbell was less than full partners in this mission."
Walmart, which sells baby food under the brand name Parent's Choice, said in a statement to UPI that it provided the subcommittee with information nearly a year ago and invited more dialogue on the issue but never heard back from them.
The company said its manufacturers must comply will all laws and regulations while its own private table product suppliers must meet its own internal goods specifications.
"We will review the report now that it is available," it said.
Nurture's Happy Family Organics said on its website that it was "aware" of the report while stating it is "proud" of its testing protocols.
"We only sell products that have been rigorously tested and we do not have products in-market with contaminant ranges outside of the limits set by the FDA," it said.
Krishnamoorthi said he expects the FDA to make changes to how it regulates baby food following this report.
"I look forward to FDA's careful regulation of these toxic heavy metals in baby foods, followed by strict compliance requirements and mandatory consumer labels," he said.