Is there such a thing as baby food without heavy metals? Unfortunately, the answer isn't always straightforward. Understandably, uncertainty around safety can leave parents nervous, scared, and confused. We don’t ever want a mom, dad, or caretaker to feel that way, so let’s talk about heavy metals in baby food - what they are, why they exist, and what you can do to avoid them as much as possible.
We know the “heavy metals” topic can feel scary and overwhelming for any parent, so before we get into it, let’s make a few things clear:
- We are here to advocate for children’s health, and hope this article inspires you to do the same.
- By being informed and taking a few simple precautions, you can help reduce your little one’s exposure to heavy metals, while also providing them with healthy, delicious options.
- You are a phenomenal parent, no matter what you feed your baby—or how you feed them!
What are Heavy Metals and Why are they in Food?
Heavy metals are a group of naturally occurring and synthetic elements that have a high density. This means that they can resist being dissolved in water and can build up in the body. The excessive buildup of heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury can cause a variety of health problems—especially in children.
As a result of a long history of soil and water contamination (read: pollution), all foods are at risk for some level of heavy metal contamination. But because there aren’t specific regulations for heavy metals in baby food (super surprising, right?!), it's important to be aware of the health risks associated with heavy metals and learn how to make informed choices about the foods and brands you give your little ones.
Heavy Metals in Baby Food in the U.S.
While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does have a process in place to monitor heavy metals in foods, it's not mandatory for baby food manufacturers to regularly test their products for heavy metal contamination. Sadly, many baby foods contain high levels of heavy metals. (Serenity Kids is actively pushing the FDA to regulate heavy metals in baby food; read more about that here.)
In fact, according to a 2021 study, many baby food companies not only under-report high levels of toxins in their products but also continue to sell these products to parents—knowing the risks they pose to children's health.
In addition, the Clean Label Project, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to providing consumers with cleaner and safer products, tested over 500 infant, baby, and toddler foods. Of the tested baby foods, 65% had detectable levels of arsenic. Fifty-eight percent of baby food products contained detectable levels of cadmium, and 36% contained detectable levels of lead. As parents, we only want the best for our little ones, so you better believe our jaws dropped at that stat! Clean Label Project tests Serenity Kids products and has given us their Purity Award because we are best in class.
Thankfully, after a decade of pressure from consumer groups, the FDA announced its Closer to Zero action plan in 2021, which aims to reduce the levels of heavy metals in food consumed by infants and young children. They say this four-stage approach will be implemented by “2024 or beyond”; however, Serenity Kids believes this timeline should be shortened. To learn more about our stance, visit our article Serenity Kids Urges FDA to Regulate Heavy Metals in Baby Foods.
What Foods are Most Susceptible to Heavy Metals?
Due to the nature of how they grow, certain foods are more prone to containing high levels of heavy metals. For example, rice and certain other grains absorb more of these heavy metals from water used to irrigate. As a result, popular infant rice products—such as rice cereal, teething biscuits, and puff snacks—tend to have higher levels of heavy metals, which is just one of the reasons why Serenity Kids is grain free. (Check out our Grain Free Baby Puffs Variety Pack.)
Root vegetables are also more susceptible to absorbing heavy metals from the soil because they grow beneath the ground. Serenity Kids has a four-step quality process to ensure all of our vegetables and final products are tested for heavy metals.
Additionally, many formula brands also contain high levels of certain heavy metals, but we do everything we can to make sure our formula comes from the best of the best sourcing; our formula contains grass-fed A2 whole milk sourced from Alexandre Family Farm, a regenerative farm nestled amongst the upper California/Oregon border, where their land and their soil are valued just as much as their animals. Click here to read more about regenerative agriculture vs. organic farming. Our formula is also an award winner of the Clean Label Project Purity Award!
The Impacts of Toxic Heavy Metals on Babies’ Health
Exposure to heavy metals can contribute to problems that could affect both physical and mental development.
Research shows that these heavy metals can interfere with the development of a child's cognitive, behavioral, and social abilities. Additionally, they may also interfere with the absorption of essential nutrients, which could lead to malnutrition and other health issues. As researchers continue to focus on the effects of toxic metals, a clearer understanding of how they contribute to varying health issues is coming to light.
Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of heavy metals because their bodies and brains are still growing and developing. This can definitely feel scary—but keep reading! There are ways to reduce your little one’s exposure to heavy metals and other contaminants.
Serenity Kids uses only organic vegetables, pasture-raised meats, and grass-fed dairy from trusted farms. Additionally, our robust quality programs and rigorous food safety audits (SQF Level III) help ensure that you always get the absolute best from our products. Not to mention, we voluntarily hold our products to the European standard for heavy metals, which are among the strictest in the world.
Tips to Avoid Exposing Your Baby to Heavy Metals
Unfortunately, not all baby foods are created equal. Some brands are more likely to contain high levels of toxic heavy metals than others. Not every company is committed to providing safe, toxin-free products, and currently the FDA does not require them to.
Luckily, there are several ways to reduce your child's exposure to heavy metals in the foods and drinks they consume. Here are 6 tips to help get you started.
1. Breastfeed or Choose a High Quality Formula
Let’s face it, breastfeeding isn’t an option for everyone. And it certainly isn’t the only way to keep your baby healthy, but if you are able to breastfeed, there can be added benefits for your little one.
Breastmilk is a naturally rich source of antioxidants and other protective nutrients that can help reduce your child's exposure to toxins. Healthy babies who are breastfed exclusively for 6 months are less likely to develop allergies, asthma, and other chronic health problems.
One huge difference between breastfeeding and formula feeding is that breastfed babies receive all the benefits of their mother's diet, including the antioxidants and other nutrients that help reduce heavy metal exposure. Of course, not-so-desirable things like heavy metals also pass through breast milk, so limiting your own exposure by eating a healthy whole food diet and limiting exposure to heavy metals and chemicals in things like personal care products and household cleaners is also a smart move (both for you and for baby!)
That said, breastfeeding isn’t the only way to reduce your little one’s exposure to heavy metals. If breastfeeding isn’t an option, a high quality formula can be a great alternative. But with so many formulas on the market, it can be hard to determine which ones are actually high quality. Unfortunately, many formulas are made with low-quality ingredients, which is why Serenity Kids developed their own Grass-Fed A2 Whole Milk Formula.
Our nutrient-rich formula is made with organic whole milk sourced from grass-fed cows on Alexandre Family Farm, which is known for its high-quality dairy and superior testing. Our formula is easy to digest and made with a unique combination of A2 protein, quality fats, and superior carbohydrates, as well as vitamins, minerals, and prebiotics to help nourish your little one as they grow.
Our formula also won the Clean Label Project Purity Award—an award given only to brands who emphasize purity and the highest quality products. To learn more, visit our article A2 Formula = Clean Label Project Purity Award!
2. Swap the fruit juice
Fruit juice, like apple and grape juice, is commonly given to growing tots—but it can be high in both sugar and heavy metals. In fact, Consumer Reports published a 2019 investigation, which found that many fruit juices and juice drinks for children contain elevated levels of arsenic and lead.
The best alternatives? Water, bone broth, or a high-quality formula, such as Serenity Kids Grass-Fed A2 Whole Milk Formula.
Giving your child filtered water is another great way to keep them hydrated and free from heavy metals, but make sure you educate yourself on safe drinking water guidelines. The CDC recommends 4 to 6 ounces of water per day for children aged 6 to 12 months and increasing the amount as they get older.
3. Make your own baby food at home
Because heavy metals and other toxins can enter the food chain at any point, even homemade baby food is at risk of some amount of contamination. That said, making your own baby food from fresh, organic ingredients gives you more control over what your child is eating.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, making your little one's meals at home helps reduce the risk of contamination during the processing and packaging stages. It also allows you to avoid added sugars, grains, and unhealthy fats like industrial seed oils.
But let’s be honest, it can be hard to find the time to make your own baby food. We totally get it, so that’s why our line of high-quality, ethically sourced baby food purees and snacks only include simple, farm-to-high-chair ingredients (that you can trust!) Check them out here.
If you're up for the challenge and enjoy spending time in the kitchen, homemade baby food could be an exciting way to get your child started on a healthy diet. And our homemade bacon baby food recipe is a great place to start! Just remember, a balanced diet is key, so make sure you're serving up plenty of healthy fats, organic vegetables, and high-quality, ethically-sourced proteins. Here are 7 reasons why meats and healthy fats are great for babies!
4. Check the labels
Learning more about the foods and brands you choose to give your baby is a good first step in avoiding products with high levels of heavy metals.
Purchasing from brands that support third-party testing is a great way to ensure you’re giving your little one the best. The Clean Label Project is an easy way to explore the best baby food products on the market.
5. Shop Clean Label certified baby food brands like Serenity Kids
The Clean Label Project's rigorous testing process takes the guesswork out of finding formulas and baby food that aren’t contaminated with heavy metals and toxins.
At Serenity Kids, healthy babies are our top priority. We only offer baby food and baby food snacks made with organic ingredients and sourced from suppliers we trust. And our Clean Label Project purity award and pesticide-free certification let you know our products meet the most stringent safety standards.
Not only do we test our ingredients before they enter our kitchen, but we test the finished product to ensure they're the cleanest prepared baby foods around. The best organic baby foods are not only safe but taste great too. We make our Serenity Kids baby food products with love and care, and our finished baby food products are loaded with essential nutrients. We're sure your little one will love our delicious, nutritious recipes, too!
6. Stay informed
By being informed and knowing the risks associated with heavy metals in baby food, you can make better choices for your little one. As concerned parents ourselves, we understand the stress of wondering if the food you're giving your baby is safe.
So, whether you choose to make your own baby food or buy from a trusted baby food brand like Serenity Kids, you can rest assured knowing that your little one is getting the best possible nutrition from an early age—without the dangers of heavy metals. Bright futures start with a healthy diet, and we're here to thrill your child's taste buds with delicious organic baby food that's good for them, too!
Written by Jennifer Wirth. Jennifer is a professional health writer, leveraging her scientific background as a Chemical Engineer to uncover the most interesting aspects of infant nutrition, pregnancy, and parenting. As a wife and mother of three young children, Jennifer is passionate about providing the best possible nutrition for her family. She believes that developing healthy eating habits early helps build the foundation for a long, fulfilling life.