WASHINGTON (CNN) – Upset by reports that up to 95% of baby food contains one or more toxic heavy metals, including lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury?
Here's the good news: Are there any actions you can take to reduce your baby's exposure to these toxic metals and thus improve your own health and that of your entire family.
"There's definitely something we can do about it," says Jane Hulihan, national director of science and health for Better Baby Bright Futures, a coalition of advocates committed to reducing baby's exposure to neurotoxic chemicals.
"(There are) actions that the Food and Drug Administration, baby food companies and parents can take," said Julihan, "And we really need all three. We need the FDA to accelerate the development of guidelines for The safety standards for these toxic metals. Companies can act now to extract metals from foods. And there are simple steps parents can take. " [1
Young children, especially babies, are The FDA says the highest risk is that because their brains and organs are not fully developed, their intestinal absorption of toxic elements is higher and food intake to body weight is greater.
Previous studies by the FDA and others have found levels of toxicity of metals in baby foods. A recent analysis of Better Babies Bright Futures tests on 168 different baby foods from 61 different manufacturers.
They found 95% of baby foods containing lead, 73% containing arsenic, 75% containing cadmium and 32% containing mercury. One quarter of foods contain all four heavy metals.
"This is cause for concern but not anxiety," Julihan said. "There is no brand, no food container that we tested, which causes panic in no way.
" These are pretty low levels, "she continued." The problem is that these exposures are added from food to food every day, and this has a significant cumulative effect. "
One of the reasons that exposures are dangerous to babies is the lack of diversity in their diets.
Take 4- to 6-month-olds, for example. Many parents continue to follow old, outdated guidelines for the best
There is no longer any recommendation for what you have to start with, ”said pediatrician Dr. Tanya Altman, author of First Foods or Believing They Need to Eat One Food at a Time, Waiting for a Few Days. "What to feed our baby."
"There is no specific color order," Altman said. "You do not have to wait days between introducing new foods. You do not have to postpone any allergenic foods unless there is an existing allergy in the family.
This is cause for concern but not anxiety.
– Jane Houlihan, national director of science and health for better babies bright future
"The latest guidelines are: Feed your baby with a variety of healthy foods, including all allergenic foods early and often in a consistency that the baby can manage "You don't need to avoid anything other than raw honey, milk or the dangers of suffocation."
Milk is not recommended as a breastfeeding drink since it cannot be metabolized until around the age of one. "But it's good as a supplement to mashed potatoes or other foods in the first year," Altman said, "The American Academy of Pediatrics, after first age, has milk and water as the best drinks for children."
Adding variety in the beginning, experts say, will also help children be less picky about their food selections as they grow up. This is good news considering the baby brackets like pasta and cheese shown on the Better Babies list of most neurotoxic foods.
The Better Babies report identifies foods containing the most severe metal contaminants that parents need to significantly reduce in their baby and child diets.
At the top of the list: rice cereals, rice layers, rice based snacks and rice crackers or toothpicks.
Rice is at the top of the list as it has extremely high concentrations of inorganic arsenic. Arsenic is a natural element found in soil, water and air. Because rice is grown in water, it is particularly good for absorbing inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form.
Because the milling process used to create white rice removes the outer layers where most of the arsenic concentrates, white rice has less arsenic than brown and wild rice.
However, in the Healthy Babies analysis, four of the seven rice cereals tested contained the most toxic form of arsenic at levels higher than the FDA's proposed 100 ppb (ppb) level of action.  "Rice cereals have six times more arsenic than other types of cereals, such as oats and whole grains," Julihan said.
"I do not recommend rice cereals as the first food for many years, because I prefer babies to eat whole grains with more nutrition," Altman said. "I recommend oatmeal and other whole grains, but not ordinary, except for the first day or so. I suggest adding almond oil and peanut butter to your oatmeal for extra nutrition."
But you don't have to make cereals as a First Food at all, she added.
"You could make avocados and vegetables and then go straight to salmon and chicken, even meat, beans or lentils, as long as you puree it," Altman said.
Rice teeth crackers and other toothpicks, Altman said, are more like snacks that have no nutrition and are not a good choice for soothing the baby's pain.
"Basically, it's like giving your baby a cookie," she said. "A cold slice of melon, frozen banana, peeled cucumber is a better choice if you are careful about suffocation. But I really prefer a tooth ring or a soft wet cloth, again with the view of suffocation."
"This will reduce the levels of arsenic, as well as the lead and cadmium we found in those dental foods," says Hulihan.
There is also a better choice for snacks from a small rice kid or even an intact round grain that is often given as finger food.
"We recommend other snacks such as apples and bananas, cheese, grapes, peaches and yogurt, "says Julihan.
Apples, grapes, and more Juices are an important source of heavy metals for children, not because the levels are as high as rice products, Julihan said, but because children drink so much juice.
"When you do the math we did on the impact on the IQ of these foods, juices are at the top," said Hulihan, "And this is because children consume so much – 80% of families serve juice to their children. and three quarters of them serve it daily. "
By replacing the juice with tap water, she said, the parent can reduce the child's exposure to toxic metals by 68%. However, the report does not recommend bottled water:" Bottled water is no more safe from filtered tap water and generator This is a plastic waste that is easily avoided by choosing tap water. "
The juice should be reduced for reasons other than toxic metals, experts say."
"Even 100% fruit juice offers no nutritional benefits. above all fruits, "according to a consensus statement released in September by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association affiliated to the American Academy of Pediatrics Dentistry.
This is because the natural sugars in the juice contribute to weight gain and tooth decay as much as other sugars, pediatricians say. While the juice contains some vitamins and a little calcium, the general lack of protein and fiber makes it a poor choice for a healthy drink.
Babies under six months only need breast milk and formula. As for juice, the group says it is best to avoid juice for children under 1.
Drinks to choose the second year of a child's life should be water and whole milk, the groups advised. "A small amount of juice is OK," the recommendations say, "but make sure it is 100% fruit juice to avoid adding sugar. Better yet, serve small pieces of real fruit that are even healthier."
Carrots and sweet potatoes are on the list of foods most contaminated, according to the Better Babies Report. By replacing those with different vegetables, the parent can reduce the risk to their baby by 73%, the analysis found.
But instead of eliminating carrots and sweet potatoes, which are excellent sources of key vitamins and minerals, Julihan suggests parents serve
"Peeling definitely helps, and if you peel a little deeper, you can remove more heavy metals." , she said.
Another tip: When cooking rice for the whole family, add extra water, just like you would for pasta, Julihan said. Then pour it before serving.
"This can reduce arsenic levels by up to 60%, according to FDA studies," she said. "This is especially important for families who serve rice often, and many serve it daily."
Many believe that the passage of organic matter is a remedy for much of the chemical contamination of our food supplies. It helps with some exposures, experts say, but not with heavy metals.
"The passage of organic matter reduces the exposure to pesticides, which is a great benefit but does not do much when it comes to heavy metals," says Julihan, "Heavy metals are found in organic foods, they are found in conventional foods. These are ubiquitous, toxic chemicals in the food supply. "
This means that you also cannot get rid of heavy metals by switching to homemade purees for your baby.
"Heavy metals are so common in the environment that crops pick them up in the fields. So they are found in the foods you would buy in the grocery section of your grocery store," Hulihan said.
It doesn't matter "does not mean that home-made baby food is not a great way to control pesticides and other pollutants, Altman said, as long as you prepare different foods. When you do, be sure to cool the food in glass containers before
"I usually advise to reduce the plastic you use," Altman said, especially when it comes to hot or heated food. ] "What I recommend is to steam pick the vegetables, puree them and cool them in small glass containers, then freeze them. You can then sort them out and put them in larger containers if you wish. "
Baby food manufacturers have joined Better Babies, the Environmental Protection Fund, and other advocacy groups to set up a Baby Food Council, which they believe has a mission to implement changes that can reduce heavy metals exposure to food. Take, for example, rice, a leading culprit in arsenic exposure because it is grown in water.
"Farmers can change the methods of irrigating rice," Julihan explained. "If they change the water cycle, they can reduce the amounts of arsenic that rice harvests.
Other changes that may occur include growing crops in cleaner fields with lower levels of heavy metals.
" They can vary regionally, but also from field to field, "Julihan said." Manufacturers can test soil and water and understand their levels and try to redirect growth to cleaner areas. Companies can set standards for their suppliers by encouraging them to do so. "
Companies can also voluntarily change the way they eat and process and produce.
" Like parents, if a producer digs carrots deeper and sweet potatoes in the processing plant, they can remove more than heavy metals, "says Julihan." And companies can do all this, now voluntarily. "
Some voluntary changes from manufacturers have already helped. These guidelines reduced the level of arsenic in fruit juice by 63% over the past 10 years.
"And if change occurs with baby food, it will probably filter down and affect the food of all of us. Nutrition, including pregnant women." "It is also important to reduce heavy metal exposure as the baby develops in the womb."
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