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What a Pediatrician Wants You to Know About Heavy Metals in Baby Foods

Jul 10, 2022

You never want to see “toxic” and “baby food” in the same sentence, so hearing about heavy metals found in popular store-bought purees is certainly a concern to parents and pediatricians everywhere. News reports over the past year or so have shared that heavy metals are showing up in the baby foods you buy at the store, so parents are understandably alarmed and asking me questions about how this can be and what can be done to keep their baby safe and eating healthy foods. 

So here’s the scoop—from a pediatrician and father of six littles. 

Before you throw out all that baby food you spent your hard-earned money on, you should know this: There are heavy metals in foods that we eat on a regular basis. This is nothing new, and it’s entirely normal. Nearly all foods that are grown in soil (or things that consume foods grown in soil) contain some level of heavy metals. The rice we eat contains a heavy metal called chromium. The seafood we eat, such as tuna or salmon, contains the heavy metal we know as mercury. We have long accepted and enjoyed foods that contain heavy metals—at low levels.

It’s OK for foods to have metals in them. Our bodies are used to these, and some heavy metals, such as copper and zinc, are used by our bodies. Many, such as mercury and arsenic, are not, but that doesn’t mean they’re detrimental when consumed at low levels.

As with everything, moderation is the key. The dose is what makes the poison. You can overdose on carrots and have orange skin. You can overdose on tuna and have mercury toxicity.

The reports I’ve seen about heavy metals in baby foods show the foods are still below the acceptable levels to be consumed. With any food you eat, there is a risk-reward ratio. Fresh veggies have such important nutrients, though, that the reward outweighs the risk.

Still worried? Still wondering if you need to change anything--maybe make your own purees from only organic veggies or maybe even grow your own veggies to be super safe? Those are great ideas if you want a little more control, but the thing is, the food is still coming from the earth. And the earth contains heavy metals that mingle with the foods, organically homegrown or not. There’s really no way around it. And that’s OK—from ancient times to now. 

So as a pediatrician and daddy who’s feeding six kiddos as I write this, I can tell you that you can keep feeding your kiddos purees, carrots, tuna, salmon, whatever you have been feeding them. Our bodies are so incredible and have adapted to the low levels of metals that occur naturally in many foods. The best thing you can do for your kids when it comes to feeding is provide a variety of foods. 

Dr. B

PS: There is absolutely no need to repeat the same foods and avoid introducing new foods for certain periods—that is a myth! And another myth: Babies need rice cereal … They do NOT. In fact, rice is a food that tends to pull in more heavy metals than most, so if you want a food to avoid to lower the amount of heavy metals your baby takes in, skip rice cereal! For more on feeding kiddos of any age, check out my free feeding workshops or look into my Unpicky Eaters course!

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