Tag Archives: Focus Article

FDA

FDA Releases Report on Salmonella Outbreak in Packaged Leafy Greens

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

FDA has released a report on the multiagency investigation of a Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak associated with packaged salad greens grown in a controlled environment agriculture (CEA) operation. The outbreak, which occurred between June and August 2021, resulted in 31 reported illnesses and four hospitalizations. It is also believed to be the first of its kind associated with leafy greens grown in a CEA facility.

No “conclusive” root cause was found, but the FDA did pinpoint the outbreak strain of Salmonella to a stormwater retention basin located next to the CEA farm. The investigation did not, however, find that this was the definitive source of contamination of the leafy greens. The agency also identified certain conditions, factors and practices that could lead to contamination, including the pond water used, growth media storage methods, water management practices and overall sanitation practices.

In the report, the FDA listed eight requirements and recommendations that apply to hydroponic facilities using CEA, including implementing effective sanitation procedures and sampling plans, conducting pre- and post-harvest sampling and testing of food, water and the physical environment, implementing procedures that are effective in rapidly cooling and cold-holding harvested leafy greens after harvest, and ensuring all growing pond water is safe and of sanitary quality.

The eight-page Investigation Report: Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Packaged Leafy Greens Implicated in the Outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium During the Summer of 2021 is available on FDA’s website.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Down Under Brings Up Food Fraud

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food fraud, australia
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Australia’s agricultural and food sectors are significant contributors to the economy. To protect Australia’s reputation as a supplier of high-quality items, producers along the supply chain now have technologies and tools available to mitigate fraudulent food products. This report from Deakin University lists fraudulent practices, and in addition mentions technical solutions for all steps along the supply chain. The report suggests to improve fraud documentation, authenticity testing, DNA barcode reference databases and more, and points out an urgent need for a more concerted effort in the Australian food industry overall.

Resource

  1. Smith, M., et al. (November 2021). “Product Fraud: Impacts on Australian agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries”. Agrifutures Australia.
CDC, FDA, USDA logos

IFSAC to Continue Focus on Finding Sources of Foodborne Illnesses

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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CDC, FDA, USDA logos

The Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC) has published its 2022–2023 Interim Strategic Plan, placing continued emphasis on foodborne illness source attribution for Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes and Campylobacter. Over the next year, IFSAC will address several short-term goals surrounding improvement of methods to evaluate and identify foodborne illness source attribution through the use of outbreak and non-outbreak-associated disease data, and continued collaboration with external partners in an effort to boost data access and capabilities. The group will be targeting several efforts in the coming year, including:

  • Analysis of trends related to foodborne disease outbreak-associated illnesses over the past two decades, with a subsequent peer-reviewed journal article that reveals results.
  • Development and improvement of machine-learning methods used to predict food sources of illnesses that have an unknown source. WGS will be used to compare Salmonella isolates of known and unknown sources.
  • Collaboration with FoodNet when assessing key food sources for sporadic Salmonella Enteritidis and Campylobacter illnesses. The group will develop case-control studies using specific FoodNet data.

Formed in 2011, IFSAC is a partnership between FDA, FSIS and the CDC that seeks to strengthen federal interagency efforts and maximize use of food safety data collection, analysis and use. During 2022–2023, IFSAC will publish its yearly reports on foodborne illness source attribution for the previously mentioned priority pathogens.

Food Safety in 2022: Sustainability, Supply Chain Issues, Consumer Preferences and Technology at the Forefront

By Maria Fontanazza
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The ongoing pandemic, food fraud, food insecurity, supply chain disruptions and shortages, maintaining and fostering a robust food safety culture, and foodborne illness outbreaks kept the food industry very busy last year. Looking ahead to 2022, these challenges will continue, but many food companies are becoming better at forecasting and course correcting. During a recent interview with Food Safety Tech, Waylon Sharp, vice president and chief operating officer at Bureau Veritas, discussed trends affecting food safety this year, along with how companies should respond to incoming challenges.

Waylon Sharp, Bureau Veritas
Waylon Sharp leads North American food and agriculture testing, inspection and certification operations at Bureau Veritas.

Food Safety Tech: What challenges did food companies face in 2021 and how can they apply their lessons learned in the new year?

Waylon Sharp: Supply chain disruptions were a big challenge for food companies in 2021, as much of the North American food system is reliant on production or raw materials from international locations. This theme will continue into 2022, as logistics become more costly and challenging from a labor perspective, food companies will naturally gravitate to exploring alternatives. This shift in supply will increase the need for verification of product quality and safety of new suppliers. In addition to, or alternatively, some producers may choose more local options to reduce delays and increase stability of supply.

FST: What are the key trends impacting food safety in 2022?

Sharp: This year we’ll see food safety impacted by sustainability, consumer preferences and health and wellness:

  • Sustainability: Connecting with a purpose will be a key driver for both attracting new customers and enticing top talent to join food organizations. All aspects are critical, including sourcing raw materials, the packaging used, and minimizing the CO2 footprint in production and logistics. Consequently, I suspect there will be bad actors that see the advantage of appearing to be responsible but not doing what they say. Services that hold these organizations accountable will likely continue to grow.
  • Consumer Preferences: Migration to hyper-local, community supporting businesses can be directly correlated to the COVID financial fallout. Buying local helps support the areas we reside in, and this trend will likely persist. The feel-good support should also result in fresher product with less supply chain challenges for consumers.
  • Health & Wellness: Sustainable, plant-based products are expanding in prevalence. Traditional meat alternatives witnessed an increase in volume and new entrants such as seafood alternatives also grew in consumer acceptance. I expect more to launch in 2022 to meet the rising demand for healthy and environmentally conscious alternatives.

FST: What technologies will play a role in helping food companies tackle their biggest hurdles this year?

Sharp: Technology will continue to play an important role in the industry this year. Additional automation and digital tools to manufacture, assess food quality and safety, and distribute food are all likely to grow. Staffing challenges will continue to impact those highly manual production environments and the more work that can be performed without human intervention will gain favor over labor-intensive functions. In addition, remote audits and inspections allow for an experienced individual to assess a situation without traveling and being present on-site to limit human contact.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Food And Drug Fraud, As Old As Humanity

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food fraud, herbs and spices
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

In all of human history, adulteration and fraud followed closely in the footsteps of new products, and herbs, spices and drugs are no exception. Even 2000 years ago, Pliny the Elder described adulteration. In ancient Athens, inspectors monitored the authenticity of wine. Scientific methods were first applied by Archimedes, and started to be utilized more by the end of the 17th century. In the 1850s, heightened public awareness and the demand for higher product quality raised anti-adulteration movements and increased enforcement.

Resource

1. Foster, S. (2011). “A Brief History of Adulteration of Herbs, Spices, and Botanical Drugs”. American Botanical Council.

Kroger Ground Beef, recall

14 Tons of Ground Beef Recalled Due to Possible E. Coli Contamination

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Kroger Ground Beef, recall

Following third-party lab testing that revealed a positive E. coli O157:H7 sample, Oregon-based Interstate Meat Dist, Inc. is recalling 28,356 pounds of ground beef products. The products were shipped to retail locations in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, according to a USDA FSIS announcement, and have bear establishment number “EST. 965” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

“The issue was reported to FSIS after a retail package of ground beef was purchased and submitted to a third-party laboratory for microbiological analysis and the sample tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. FSIS conducted an assessment of the third-party laboratory’s accreditation and methodologies and determined the results were actionable.” – FSIS, USDA

The USDA posted images of labels and product details related to the Class I recall, which have been distributed to Wal-Mart, WinCo, Kroger and Albertsons.

Hazy IPA

Clearing the Beer Haze with Advanced Turbidity Testing Technologies

By Steve Guay
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Hazy IPA

Beer is one of the world’s oldest beverages, with evidence suggesting production as far back as the Bronze age. While beer is no longer used as renumeration for work as it was in the Mesopotamian Fertile Crescent, it is nevertheless a common pleasure for many people. Craft brewing is a relatively new phenomenon, and quite different from the brewing processes of antiquity. In the United States, immigrants from Germany and Czechia began to experiment with new recipes for craft beer in the 1960s. These recipes, often based on the Bavarian 16th century Reinheitsgebot, or purity laws, ensured that only the purest, highest quality ingredients went in to make beer: Water, barley, hops and yeast.

Since then, there has been a rapid growth in the number of microbreweries that experiment with “new-world” hops and grains to create huge ranges of flavorful beers that go far beyond traditional recipes. This variety in brewing ingredients and approaches has, in part, supported the explosion of a mass market for craft beer. In 2020, the global market value of craft beer was estimated at nearly $165 billion, and is expected to grow to nearly $554 Billion by 2027, with the largest growing markets in countries like China, Japan and the United States. There has also been a shift in which types of beers are consumed, with more premium or specialized craft beers increasing in market share with respect to low-cost mass-production beers.

In such a crowded and dynamic market, beer producers are faced with competitive challenges like never before. Ensuring a consistently high-quality product with a distinctive flavor profile that can be enjoyed time and time again is critical for market success. One of the key challenges standing in the way of achieving this is turbidity, or “haze”, in the end product. Such haze can give an unsightly first impression to consumers, compromise flavor, and negatively impacts shelf stability. In this article we discuss how new, advanced turbidity testing technologies are enabling brewers to quickly and efficiently eliminate haze from their beers, supporting breweries in their goals of delivering great consumer experiences again and again.

Quality over Quantity

With the growing “premiumization” of beers, ever-greater attention and importance is being placed on interesting and consistent flavor profiles. Often, this includes beers made from ingredients far outside the relatively strict Reinheitsgebot recipe, including additions such as coffee, fruit and spices. The emphasis on more complex flavor profiles is pushing beer tasting to be taken as seriously as wine tasting, with perfectly balanced beers often being designed to match certain foods.

However, the addition of these newer ingredients can introduce challenges into the brewing process, especially as they can be sources of turbidity-causing impurities that may affect the quality, flavor and shelf stability of the final product. This is particularly challenging when beer brewing is scaled up to larger manufacturing quotas, where careful control of variables like ingredient choices, recipes and manufacturing methods are critical for ensuring the consistency and quality of the beer from batch to batch.

To meet these needs, modern breweries are increasingly using new and advanced technologies throughout the brewing process to maintain high quality products. Technologies like water purification systems, titrators and portable instruments such as hand-held pH meters and spectrophotometers are all being utilized to improve and refine the manufacturing process. A major focus of this technological drive is in turbidity detection and removal.

What Is Haze, and Where Does It Come From?

Haze is a broad term referring to evenly distributed turbidity—suspended, insoluble material which can appear in the final product. Haze can be divided into several types, most commonly: Chill haze, a temporary haze that disappears when a chilled beer warms to room temperature; and permanent haze, which is present at all temperatures. Haze can also be divided into biological haze (caused by microbiological growth in the beer) and non-biological haze (caused by a wide variety of non-living material, such as peptides, polyphenols and starches).

Hazy IPA
With the rising popularity of craft beer, many companies and customers are embracing intentionally ‘cloudy’ beers, which can make detecting offending turbidity even more challenging. All images courtesy of Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Since turbidity can be the result of unwanted microbes, wild yeast or protein particles, these deposits, although not unsafe to consume, can significantly alter the flavor profile of the beer, adding unpleasant acidity, sourness, or even “off” flavors. Bacteria are one of the major sources of turbidity in beers, particularly lactic acid-producing bacteria (LAB), such as Lactobacillus. While small amounts of lactic acid can add pleasant, desirable sour flavors in sour beers, the over-presence of these bacteria can be a major cause of contamination, so their levels must be closely monitored in the brewing process. Other bacteria like Pectinatus species can also “infect” beers, causing turbidity as well as “off” aromas and flavors due to the creation of hydrogen sulfide and fatty acids.

Importantly, turbidity-causing compounds can collect in the product from all stages of the brewing process:

  1. This starts with the source of water, and how it is filtered and treated. For example, a high presence of calcium in brewing water can cause precipitation of calcium oxalate.
  2. Mashing, the first stage of the brewing process, produces a malt extract from mixing grains and water. The malt extract is a liquid containing sugar extracted during mashes and has high viscosity and high protein content. At this stage fungi (like Penecillium), wild yeasts (Candida) and bacteria can all enter the mix to cause turbidity later on.
  3. From there, the process of lautering separates the wort from the grain. The wort is then boiled with hops, clarified, then fermented with yeast. The fermentation process is a common step when turbidity-causing bacteria like Lactobacillus and Pediococcus can contaminate the mixture.
  4. The fermented beer product is then stored for anything from three weeks to three months in a storage tank where a second fermentation takes place. Then it is filtered and packaged into barrels, bottles, or cans; all of which are also potential sources of turbidity-causing bacteria like Pectinatus.

The filtration and pasteurization processes are key for removing sources of turbidity. However, these processes do not necessarily remove all sources of turbidity, especially if aspects of the brewing process are altered by external factors (e.g., subtle shifts in the mashing temperatures) and cause a buildup of contaminants that is too great to filter out. Therefore, effectively monitoring and minimizing turbidity throughout the brewing process is critical, allowing brewers to make timely corrective adjustments, reducing a buildup of contaminants in the final product.

Advanced Methods for Turbidity Testing

To support effective haze removal and ensure beer consistency, turbidity measurements must be taken throughout the entire brewing process. Measurements should therefore be quick and efficient, and able to measure large quantities of beer in a short space of time, especially in high-production breweries. As such, advanced on-site turbidity testing technologies that are efficient and easy to use are ideal, and can rapidly streamline quality control in the brewing process. For example, with turbidity meters, breweries can swiftly check that their fining or filtration process is yielding a desired end product, and if an issue arises during the clarification process, an onsite turbidity measurement can pick this up right away for speedy corrective action. Such speedy rectification minimizes the chances of ruined batches and resultant profit loss to the brewery.

Handheld Turbidity Meter
Advanced portable turbidity meters enable efficient and reliable measurements on-site to streamline quality control in the brewery.

Modern turbidity meters work by using an infrared LED light source to measure light scattering in a solution. These handy devices allow brewers to perform rapid testing of beer with simple grab samples, meaning samples can be analyzed without having to disturb the brewing process. The LED light sources used in more advanced meters also have several benefits. For example, the LED does not require a warm-up period like older tungsten lamps, meaning it is ready to use at all times. Secondly, infrared LED light sources prevent color interference, which is especially useful for testing darker beers. Finally, the LED will last the life of the meter and give stable signals, meaning that calibration does not drift. Turbidity meters can also test for chill haze, allowing brewers to check for problems that can cause the beer to turn cloudy during prolonged chilling.

Quality Kings

Quality control of the brewing process is crucial for maintaining the quality and consistency of beer products that keep customers returning time and time again to their beers of choice. In a hyper-competitive market, brewers must use all the advantages they can to stay ahead of the game. Hazy beers can be particularly off-putting to customers if they are expecting bright, clear products, and critical qualities like taste and aroma can be very unpleasant if contamination isn’t carefully controlled. Moreover, unwanted turbidity in beers can negatively impact shelf stability, with resultant impact on profitability and brand reputation.

Owing to the complexity of beer making, the sources of turbidity are multiple, meaning that careful testing of turbidity is critical. In helping to overcome these challenges, advanced turbidity meters are enabling brewers to perform efficient and simple measurements on-site throughout the brewing process. This is helping to drive more timely tweaks to the brewing, filtration and storage steps to ensure consistent, high-quality beers with carefully crafted flavor profiles reach the market.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Fraud Detection Coordination Across the Nations

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Herbs, Spices, food fraud
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Spices and herbs are sourced at a rate of 300,000 tons into the EU from places around the world, and fraudulent activity can happen in any steps along the supply chain. The European Commission’s control plan investigated nearly 2,000 samples of herbs and spices commonly targeted for fraud, such as oregano, cumin, turmeric, paprika, pepper and saffron, and found oregano to be the most manipulated, usually by the addition of olive leaves. Overall, the rate of 17% fraudulent products was down compared to other studies.

Resource

  1. Maquet, A., et al. (2021) “Results of an EU wide coordinated control plan to establish the prevalence of fraudulent practices in the marketing of herbs and spices”. European Commission Joint Research Centre Publications Repository.
Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

The Many Ways To Make Fraudulent Olive Oil

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Olives
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

The production methods for high quality olive oil are well defined, but fraudsters use a multitude of ways to produce fake premium olive oils and charge steep prices for mediocre or even dangerous products. From false declaration of origin, blending with lower quality olive oils or other vegetable oils, second centrifugation of olive paste, deodorizing, to false labeling claims, this study lists several common fraudulent practices. Olive oil keeps making the top of the list of frequently adulterated foods, but meanwhile is also one of the most highly tested commodities.

Resource

  1. Casadei, E. et al. (June 2021). “Emerging trends in olive oil fraud and possible countermeasures”. Food Control. Science Direct.

 

Jonathan Sharp, Environmental Litigation Group
In the Food Lab

How Baby Food Companies Can Minimize the Concentration of Heavy Metals in Products

By Jonathan Sharp
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Jonathan Sharp, Environmental Litigation Group

On February 4, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives made public a report concerning the existence of heavy metals in baby food. The heavy metals of concern were cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury, which pose a tremendous hazard to developing children’s health. After reviewing internal documents and test results from seven of the largest baby food manufacturers in the country, the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy found each company’s products to contain dangerously high concentrations of heavy metals.

Four of the companies, Nurture, Beech-Nut, Hain and Gerber, responded to the request. They provided internal testing policies, test results for ingredients and finished products, and documentation about how they handled finished products and ingredients that exceeded their internal testing limits.

On the other hand, Walmart, Campbell and Sprout Organic Foods refused to partake in the investigation. The Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy members are very concerned that the lack of cooperation of these manufacturers could obstruct the presence of even higher levels of heavy metals in their products than their competitors.

Practical Measures Baby Food Companies Can Take to Ensure Products Are Safe for Children

Baby food manufacturers may not intentionally add heavy metals to their products, but their lack of testing and a lack of regulation in this sense is a cause for great concern. The main ingredients in baby foods such as rice, sweet potatoes, wheat, and carrots absorb heavy metals from the soil and water and metal-containing pesticides and industrial pollution.

Therefore, the companies that manufacture baby food should tackle the issue of heavy metals at the root of the problem and abide by strict safety measures and protocols to ensure low concentrations of heavy metals, particularly arsenic. Some of the steps that they could take to minimize this issue are the following:

  • Sourcing cereals, fruits, and vegetables from fields with lower arsenic concentrations in the earth
  • Growing crops with natural soil additives that reduce heavy metal uptake
  • Using strains of food that are less prone to absorb heavy metals
  • Altering irrigation practices
  • Preparing the food with excess water that is afterward poured off
  • Blending it with lower arsenic grains in multi-grain products

Subsequently, when the end product is finished, manufacturers should collect a sample from the finite product and test it for cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury. Fortunately, nowadays, testing baby food for heavy metals is easier than ever and cost-efficient. Every food facility that must comply with FSMA must implement HACCP and establish preventive controls. HACCP, which is recognized internationally, ensures the health and safety of consumers by avoiding hazardous toxins in food. When it comes to baby food companies, they should focus on chemistry testing, as it addresses chemical and physical hazards, including heavy metals.

Alternatively, baby food companies can test their products by using the guidelines of the Environmental Defense Fund. The non-profit advocacy group advises manufacturers to prohibit arsenic, cadmium explicitly, and lead in any packaging or food handling equipment and strictly avoid brass and bronze unless they are confident that no heavy metal was added. Manufacturers of baby food should test the products per se, the ingredients, and the packaging for arsenic, cadmium, and lead. More specifically, companies should:

  • Consistently test baby food and their main ingredients that may be contaminated with arsenic, cadmium, or lead by using the method approved by the FDA and examine potential sources of heavy metals where measurable concentrations are found
  • Periodically test the packaging that comes in contact with food anywhere along the supply chain for arsenic, cadmium, or lead through a CPSC-accepted, third-party certified lab that evaluates baby food for heavy metals

In December of 2019, the cost of heavy metal testing was between $50 and $100 per sample. Nevertheless, companies that produce baby food should invest in heavy metal testing, no matter how small or large. This is the only way of making sure they put exclusively clean and safe products of high quality on the market.

To make sure baby food companies keep following the guidelines concerning heavy metals and do not fail to test their products for these neurotoxins regularly, the authority of the FDA should be expanded. Accordingly, the agency should be able to request a recall of adulterated or misbranded baby food whose concentration of heavy metals exceeds the safe limit. Moreover, the FDA should establish health-protective standards for each heavy metal and implement a testing program for neurotoxins in foods eaten by infants and toddlers that could be similar to the agenda of the Consumer Product Safety Commission for children’s toys.

The Ethical Measures Baby Food Companies Should Take to Avoid Selling Tainted Products

Baby food companies should exercise their social and moral capacity at all times. Nonetheless, while few people achieve the extent of influence necessary to change society itself, the food industry can drastically change societies. Moreover, it can also act in morally beneficial or detrimental ways, which inevitably affects people, the environment, and, ultimately, the planet itself.

To prevent your baby food company from developing unethical conducts, such as allowing dangerous concentrations of heavy metals in the products that end up on the market, there are a series of measures you and the other people who are in charge of the business can take, the paramount being the following:

  • Hiring accredited, trustworthy and competent people is perhaps the most important, as well as the first, step you can take to ensure no foul play will occur, as they will be unlikely to cover up essential information from you and the other higher-ups
  • Sourcing your ingredients from ethical suppliers, that are, preferably, local farmers, as they usually employ transparent business practices
  • Make sure that your facilities are maintained clean 24/7 by hiring the right people to take care of this not-so-easy job as if you neglect the condition of your facilities. Other contaminants may end up in the food you sell
  • Systematically testing your baby food for cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury to ensure the products you allow to go on the market do not contain dangerous levels of heavy metals
  • Partnering with experienced laboratories to have your baby food regularly tested for heavy metals, which may help you save money if it is going to be a win-win situation
  • Having clear labels, even if you add ingredients that are not so healthy in your products, which will result in the consumers you target trusting you as a company
  • Voluntarily recalling a line of baby food products as soon as you receive the positive test results for one or multiple heavy metals, which will spare you some liability if you willingly take your food off the market

The Changes the Baby Food Safety Act May Bring About if the Bill Becomes Effective

On March 26, 2021, Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi introduced the Baby Food Safety Act, a bill to set maximum limits for each heavy metal in infant and toddler food, which is defined as food manufactured for children younger than 36 months. The initiative was taken because the concentration of neurotoxins in baby food is poorly regulated in our country. There is only a maximum limit for arsenic set by the FDA, which is considered dangerous by multiple other health agencies. It applies solely to infant rice cereals. The other three harmful heavy metals are not regulated at all.

If the Baby Food Act of 2021 becomes effective, companies that manufacture, process, pack or hold baby food need to ensure that their food complies with the limits on heavy metals set by the bill. Furthermore, baby food companies would also have to provide public information, such as test results for neurotoxins in their infant and toddler.