Jars of baby food in a row

Heavy Metals in Baby Food

Government and private testing reveal dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals in baby food manufactured by several popular brands. Of the 168 baby foods recently tested, 95% contained toxic heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. Infants’ exposure to these toxic heavy metals can lead to serious and irreversible damage to their developing brains. Find out more about the baby food brands tested and the shocking results.

The Problem

Baby food manufacturers, advocates and state agencies recently conducted tests showing one in four popular baby food brands contains unsafe levels of four toxic metals – arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. Although the metals occur naturally in all foods, the high levels in nearly all baby foods cause great concern among researchers. Brands tested include HappyBABY, Beech-Nut Nutrition Company, Earth’s Best Organic, Gerber, Parent’s Choice, Sprout Organics and Plum Organics.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has finalized only one toxic heavy metal standard in baby food, establishing an allowable inorganic arsenic level in infant rice cereal. Compared to the current FDA and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-established toxic heavy metal standards for bottled water, baby foods and their ingredients surpassed the levels by frightening margins. Baby foods and baby food ingredients contained up to:

  • 91 times the arsenic level
  • 69 times the cadmium level
  • 177 times the lead level
  • 5 times the mercury level

Health Risks From Exposure to Heavy Metals

Arsenic exposure can cause adverse respiratory, gastrointestinal, hematological, hepatic, renal, skin, neurological and immunological effects. Exposure to toxic arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury levels can also:

  • damage children’s central nervous systems
  • damage children’s cognitive development
  • permanently decrease IQ
  • cause behavioral problems
  • diminish future economic productivity
  • reduce postnatal growth and delay puberty
  • cause Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • cause Autism Spectrum Disorder (autism)

Baby Food & Baby Food Ingredients Tested

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform analyzed Nurture, Inc.’s and Campbell Soup Company’s finished baby food product test results.

However, the current industry standard is to test ingredients only, despite manufacturers’ awareness that higher toxic metal levels occur in processed, finished products. Hain Celestial Group, Inc. revealed to the FDA that vitamin/mineral pre-mix additives, for example, increase toxic heavy metal levels in final products. In fact, the inorganic arsenic levels in 100% of Hain’s tested finished products were 28%-93% higher than in ingredients alone.

Nurture, Inc.’s HappyBABY products tested include:  

  • puffs
  • rice cakes
  • cereals
  • teethers
  • yogis
  • jarred foods
  • formulas

Campbell Soup Company’s Plum Organics products tested include:

  • Super Puffs
  • Mighty Morning Bars
  • Mighty Sticks
  • Teensy Snacks
  • Grow Well Tummy
  • Grow Well Muscle

Other baby food manufacturers’ tested ingredients include:

  • flours
  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • spices
  • extracts
  • vitamin pre-mixes
  • vitamin mixes
  • powders
  • purees
  • oats
  • seeds
  • pastes
  • juice concentrates

A Closer Look at the Research

In 2019, the nonprofit Healthy Babies Bright Futures conducted a study of 168 baby foods across 61 brands. Ninety-five percent of the baby foods tested contained toxic metals.

On Feb. 4, 2021, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform issued a report on four major baby food manufacturers’ testing policies, test results and the companies’ responses to the results. Nurture, Inc. (HappyBABY), Beech-Nut Nutrition Company, Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (Earth’s Best Organic) and Gerber submitted information to the committee for analysis. The companies’ testers found high levels of arsenic, cadmium and lead in foods made by all four respondents. Testers also detected mercury in Nurture, Inc.’s HappyBABY products. (Nurture, Inc. was the only company to test for mercury.)

The committee’s first report drew startling conclusions about three major manufacturers’ processes.

Nurture, Inc.:

  • sets toxic heavy metal standards that are too high and doesn’t follow them
  • conducts testing, but continues to sell all tested products regardless of test results
  • established an inorganic arsenic level for infant rice cereal that surpassed the FDA’s limit

Beech-Nut Nutrition Company:

  • set internal arsenic and cadmium standards at extremely high levels in additives
  • established extremely high lead levels for other ingredients
  • set the most unsafe levels of any respondent

Hain Celestial Group, Inc.:

  • set internal standards for arsenic, cadmium and lead in some of its ingredients but allowed exceptions
  • allowed exceptions to internal standards despite telling the FDA that its testing underestimated the total level of toxic heavy metals in its final products

Although three other manufacturers – Walmart Inc., Sprout Foods, Inc. (now owned by Neptune Wellness Solutions) and Campbell Soup Company -– failed to respond to the committee’s initial request for information, the companies each cooperated in some ways with the committee after the publication of the first report. An analysis in the committee’s second report also revealed troubling findings.

Walmart Inc.

  • refuses to test its baby food for toxic heavy metals
  • sets maximum toxic heavy metal levels and asks its private label manufacturer to self-certify the foods meet those levels
  • fails to verify the self-certified levels are correct
  • raised its allowable inorganic arsenic level in baby foods in 2018

Sprout Foods, Inc.

  • requires its ingredient suppliers to test for toxic heavy metals only once annually
  • committee calls this “the most reckless testing practice among manufacturers on the market”

Campbell Soup Company

  • products contain high levels of arsenic, cadmium and lead

Alaska also conducted FDA-funded testing on infant rice cereal samples in May 2021. The test concluded that multiple cereal samples from Beech-Nut Nutrition Company and Gerber contained higher levels of inorganic arsenic than the FDA’s limit.

Are manufacturers and government entities recalling or taking other action?

Some manufacturers and government entities are beginning to deal with the problem. Still, other manufacturers blatantly disregard the issue, and government action is slow.


  • Beech-Nut Nutrition Company discontinued its rice cereal products
  • Gerber failed to recall or discontinue sales of its rice cereal, even though it contained a very high level of inorganic arsenic


  • urges manufacturers to reduce exposure to toxic heavy metals as much as possible
  • created the Closer to Zero Action Plan, which sets timelines for establishing maximum arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury levels

U.S. House Committee Recommendations

  • The FDA should update Closer to Zero’s timelines if baby food safety is a priority.
  • The FDA should require baby food manufacturers to test finished products for toxic heavy metals, not just ingredients.
  • If the FDA doesn’t require manufacturers to test finished products, the manufacturers should volunteer.
  • Manufacturers should find substitutes for toxic ingredients.
  • Manufacturers should phase out products testing high in toxic heavy metals.

Avoiding Tainted Baby Food

The American Academy of Pediatrics and Healthy Babies Bright Futures offer suggestions to help parents avoid toxic heavy metals in baby foods.

Baby Food Lawyers

Government and private testing have detected dangerously high arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury levels in almost all baby foods. These toxic heavy metals can cause behavioral issues, cognitive impairment, developmental delays and neurological problems. If you fed your baby commercial baby food and your child exhibited any of these adverse side effects, we can help. Our firm has the resources to represent clients throughout the country while never losing sight of the individual.

If your child suffered adverse effects from Baby Food contaminated with heavy metals, please contact us. Roger Smith, Chad Cook, Mary Cam Raybon and Melissa Prickett, attorneys with Beasley Allen Law Firm, are currently investigating individual cases involving children who consumed Baby Food contaminated with toxic heavy metals.

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