Following the report released by Congress in February regarding an alarming amount of toxic heavy metals found in baby food, the FDA has released an action plan that aims to reduce the presence of those dangerous metals to the “lowest possible levels” in common foods consumed by babies and young children. The “Closer to Zero” plan takes research, regulatory and outreach into consideration and will use the following approach:
- Evaluating the scientific basis for action levels. FDA will evaluate existing data from routine testing of food, research and data on chemical analytical methods, toxicological assays, exposure and risk assessments, and other relevant scientific information.
- Proposing action levels for specific toxic elements in baby food categories that include cereal, formula, and pureed fruits and vegetables.
- Working with stakeholders and federal partners on proposed action levels— including collecting data and information from workshops and scientific meetings—and assessing the feasibility of the proposed action levels and timeframes for achieving them. The FDA will use and monitor the information to finalize the action levels.
“Our action plan will start with prioritizing our work on those elements for which we have the most data and information – arsenic and lead – while research continues on other elements, progressing through each element over time across various categories of foods consumed by babies and young children,” stated Janet Woodcock, M.D., acting FDA commissioner and Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of CFSAN. “During the plan’s first year (phase one), we will be proposing action levels for lead in categories of foods consumed by babies and young children, consulting with and gathering data from stakeholders and federal partners on issues such as the feasibility of meeting action levels for lead, and sharing resources with industry on best practices for reducing or preventing lead contamination. We will also complete updated sampling assignments testing toxic element levels in baby foods and evaluate the science related to arsenic exposure from foods beyond infant rice cereal. Phases two, three and beyond are outlined in our plan.” Phase 2 runs from April 2022 until April 2024 and will expand the agency’s work into cadmium and mercury, as well as finalize action levels for lead. Phase three and beyond begins in April 2024 and will finalize action levels for arsenic.