California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a new law last month that will require baby food manufacturers to test their products for toxic heavy metals and share the results with consumers. The law, known as AB 899, goes beyond guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and aims to put pressure on companies like Gerber, Hain (Earth’s Best Organic), Nurture, and others to limit children’s exposure to inorganic arsenic, lead, and mercury.
“This new law is a step in the right direction as it will give California parents vital information to help them select the safest baby foods for their kids,” says attorney Stephanie B. Sherman, a partner at the Wisner Baum law firm. Sherman and her colleagues represent thousands of children in ongoing litigation against several of the nation's top baby food companies. The baby food lawsuits allege dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, and mercury in certain products can cause autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.
“Testing shows that baby food companies continue to sell foods that are contaminated with significant levels of toxic metals,” Sherman says. “They have been aware of this issue for years, and even after the public scrutiny that came after a Congressional report in 2021, very little has been done to protect children. We certainly hope that AB 899 will change the industry’s behavior, but we are not counting on it. We believe that litigation and holding the manufacturers accountable in court will ultimately lead to much-needed industry reform.”
What Does the California Law on Heavy Metals in Baby Food Say?
Starting on January 1, 2024, baby food makers both in and out of the state will be required to conduct monthly tests to measure levels of lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic in their products. By 2025, manufacturers will have to publicly disclose test results and include information on a product's label if it meets the recommended heavy metal limit set by the FDA.
California's new law also requires companies to add QR codes to their baby food products by 2025, allowing consumers to access the results of toxic element tests online. Additionally, the law prohibits any person or entity to sell, manufacture, deliver, hold, or offer for sale in the state any baby food or infant formula that fails to meet the new requirements.
No baby food manufacturer has publicly announced plans to challenge the law. Any legal challenges may prove tricky because states often have the authority to regulate consumer products above federal standards.
While California's law represents an important step, it will largely take effect once the FDA finalizes its own action levels for heavy metals in baby foods. The FDA announced its Closer to Zero plan in April 2021 but has missed its own goals and removed some deadlines from its website. However, the upcoming FDA rules, combined with California's new law, are expected to complement each other as the administration sets regulatory limits and the state surpasses them.
Background Information on Heavy Metals in Baby Food
The presence of heavy metals in baby food has become a widespread problem in the U.S. for many years. A recent investigation found that all but one of the 33 baby food products tested contained at least two heavy metals, such as lead, arsenic, or cadmium.
In 2021, a U.S. House Oversight Subcommittee investigation shed light on the presence of dangerous levels of inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury in popular baby foods. Internal documents obtained by the subcommittee suggested that several top manufacturers persistently disregarded their own standards and allowed products with dangerously high heavy metal content to reach store shelves.
The House report came after a 2018 analysis conducted by Consumer Reports. The CR report, which tested 50 packaged foods designed for infants and toddlers, found lead and other heavy metals known to pose significant health risks. The findings were alarming; approximately two-thirds of the products contained significant levels of lead, cadmium, and/or inorganic arsenic.
Heavy metals are particularly dangerous for young children because of their size and developing brains. Even low levels of exposure can increase the risk of lower IQ and behavior problems. Studies have also linked heavy metal exposure to autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
How to Avoid Toxic Metals in Baby Food
The California law is helpful for parents in the state. But what about parents in other states? The baby food lawyers at Wisner Baum have several important resources for parents looking for ways to avoid heavy metals in the foods they serve their kids.
- List of Baby Foods with Heavy Metals (Updated August 2023) – This is a lengthy list of products that recently rested high for arsenic, lead, and mercury.
- Baby Foods Toxic Heavy Metals List (2022) – This blog contains heavy metals testing from Healthy Babies Bright Futures in 2022.
- Baby Foods to Avoid – This blog contains a long list of companies and products implicated in the U.S. Congressional report on baby foods in 2021.
- Baby Foods Without Heavy Metals – This blog includes a list of companies and products that have not tested high for heavy metals. It also includes helpful suggestions on varying your child’s diet to avoid heavy metals exposure.
Baby Food Lawyers Representing Thousands of Children Throughout the Country
Baby food lawyers from Wisner Baum represent thousands of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) after consuming dangerously high levels of heavy metals in baby foods from the following companies:
- Hain Celestial Group – Earth's Best Organic
- Nurture – Happy Family Organics and Happy BABY
- Plum Organics
- Sprout Foods – Sprout Organic Food
- Walmart – Parent's Choice
If you are interested in learning more about your legal rights in a baby food lawsuit, we recommend reading our blog – How to File a Baby Food Lawsuit. This will help answer questions about who qualifies for a lawsuit, what filing a lawsuit can do for you and your child, and more.
Wisner Baum is in active litigation and our firm plans to take a case to trial in 2024. To see if your child qualifies for a baby food lawsuit, please fill out our confidential case evaluation form or contact our legal team at (855) 948-5098 to schedule a time to speak with a baby food lawyer. We are here to help.