Following complaints of toxic metals in baby food, the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy issued a request for manufacturer testing data, which indicated levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. Although the report was requested in November 2019, one of the manufacturers, Beech-Nut, just recently issued a recall on June 9, 2021. Due to the discovery of high levels of naturally occurring inorganic arsenic, Beech-Nut is permanently discontinuing its infant rice cereal. As the FDA does not restrict the levels of heavy metals in baby food, this recall was voluntary. Consumers, however, are not satisfied with the recall and have filed lawsuits, claiming the heavy metals in baby food lead to issues in infant brain development.
In addition to brain development issues, some parents have also reported a correlation between the baby food and autism spectrum disorder. In response to these findings, more than 80 lawsuits have been filed to address the concerns of parents and consumers. The manufacturers involved in the lawsuits include Beech-Nut, Gerber, Plum Organics, Happy Family Organics, Sprout Organic Foods, HappyBABY, Earth’s Best Organic, and Parent’s Choice. Although all of the companies documented traces of arsenic and other heavy metals in their baby food, the plaintiffs in the lawsuits argue that these companies never disclosed the potential presence of arsenic in their products. Despite the manufacturer knowledge of these levels, their marketing efforts did not present a warning to consumers.
A majority of the cases filed are being handled in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Plaintiffs have attempted to consolidate their claims and treat each company as one defendant in their lawsuits. On June 7, 2021, however, the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation denied this request, stating that each defendant adheres to its own unique manufacturing procedures, suppliers, and quality control processes. Internal testing and the precise amount of heavy metals in their products are characteristics that are specific to the individual companies involved. Until the legal matters are resolved, parents are left to use their discretion in selecting reliable, healthy, and safe baby food products.