Shocking study findings: 1 in 5 baby foods contain lead

Lead, a toxic metal causing disastrous consequences in children is ironically found in baby food.

As parents, we take all the efforts so that our children have the safest, most nutritious foods they can ever have. We cook for them using the freshest ingredients, buy the best baby food for them and see to it that they do not ingest anything noxious. However, a shocking study has revealed high lead content in food for babies produced by some companies.

The research on lead content in food for babies was conducted by Environmental Defence Fund, a non-profit organisation reveals that about 20% of the baby foods contain this toxic heavy metal.

lead content in food

Lead content in food for babies: Be aware and informed about what you feed your little one.

Effects of lead on human body

In the 1940s, lead was everywhere. It was present in plumbing pipes (plumbing derived the name from the Latin name for lead – Plumbum). It was a component of petrol, it was used in batteries. It was present in industrial wastes. After the Omnipresent One, Lead was the close second. It was found in air, water, soil, and even fish along with mercury and cadmium. 

The sad part is, from each of these forms, it was absorbed by the human bodies. It can cross the placenta and this is how it finds it way in the baby even before it is born! Lead has disastrous consequences on the developing human body, causing the red blood cells to function sub-optimally. 

According to the USFDA,

“There is no known identified safe blood lead level, and chronic exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health, increasing the risk for damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behaviour problems, and hearing and speech problems.”

Lead is stored in the vital organs like heart, liver, muscles, spleen for a short term before finding its way to the bones and teeth. It is absorbed more by the children. Iron and calcium deficiencies lead to a faster absorption. In fact, if adults and children were to ingest the same quantity of Lead, the children’s body would absorb 50% more lead than the adults. Imagine this happening to a growing body. 

Symptoms of lead toxicity

The clinical presentation of lead toxicity depends on the duration of intake, the amount of intake and the source of exposure. organic lead compounds, found in industrial sources tend to be more readily absorbed by the body. 

The most common symptoms in children are mood and behavioural changes, lower IQ, hyperactivity or decreased activity, colic, gastrointestinal disturbances to name a few. Prolonged exposure can also lead to convulsions, anaemia, delirium. 

Needless to say, it is a nasty picture. 

Lead content in food for babies: Not using the baby food is not the solution

Unfortunately, lead is not found as an additive in the food. It is present in the raw, natural ingredients like water, vegetables and meat. So when it comes to lead content in food for babies, it is very difficult to remove this toxic substance from the baby food. By extension, it also means that whatever you use as ingredients has a chance of contributing to the lead load, even if it is organic. 

All the absorbed lead takes its time to be excreted out of the body. It is estimated that even if the intake of lead was stopped somehow, it would take months or even years to get rid of all the lead in the body. Fortunately, when there is a suspicion of lead poisoning, there are treatments available. 

The solution

So, as far as we know, the lead is there to stay. The key is to keep it below the toxic levels. Based on the findings and recommendations of experts, here are three things you can do to slow down the buildup of lead in your bodies. 

1# Healthy intake of Vitamins, particularly Vitamin C

Vitamin C has been shown to slow down the absorption of lead from the food. It changes the environment of the stomach and makes it difficult for the lead to be absorbed. In addition, it also improves the absorption of Iron from the food, reducing any deficiency. This also reduces the absorption of lead from the food. 

In addition, Vitamin C and Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) are shown to improve the excretion of the lead already present in the body. Thiamine has been shown to improve the excretion of lead from the brain in some animal studies. So be sure that your child eats his greens without fail.

2# Reduce or exclude the juices

Store bought juices have little benefits to your child. They are loaded with sugar, have minimal fibre and may be rich in lead due to the processing involved. But the more compelling reason is the finding of the study mentioned at the start of the article. In the samples tested, lead was found in 9 out of 10 grape juice samples, 7 out of 10 mixed fruit juice samples, and about half samples of apple and pear juices. However, in the baby version of apple and grape juices, the lead content was ironically much higher.

So, instead of giving juices, encourage your child to eat fresh fruits. But, even here, try out different fruits so that there is no lead build up from one source.

3# Tackle the deficiencies

Deficiencies in itself are not good for your child. That said, they are not uncommon even in developed nations like Singapore. The reason is most commonly a lack of a balanced diet. Iron and Calcium deficiencies are quite common in children. In the case of Calcium, it might just be due to a deficiency of Vitamin D. 

Correction of these deficiencies will ensure that your child stays healthy and the build up of lead is slow.

Also read: Healthy soup recipes for babies