Is lead in the U.S. food supply decreasing our IQ?

Is lead in the U.S. food supply decreasing our IQ?

A report found detectable levels of lead in 20 percent of baby food samples compared to other foods.

EDF analyzed more than 12,000 test results from the 2003-2013 FDA national composite food sample data (the Total Diet Study).

"While we evaluated all types of food collected by FDA, we focused on types of baby food because infants are most vulnerable to lead", the report states.

The environmental group's analysis found that, over that 11-year period, at least one test had measurable levels of lead in all but five types of baby food. The biggest lead culprits were fruit juices, such as grape and apple; root vegetables, including sweet potatoes and carrots; and treats such as Arrowroot cookies and teething biscuits. Grape juice most often contained lead, with 89% of samples showing detectable levels. Soil contamination is a known source of lead in food, but the EDF report also raised the possibility of contamination occurring via the use of lead-containing materials during food processing. The latest research suggests that there is no safe level of lead for children.

That means there's no brand information for what products contain lead, but it does show that there's a widespread issue in the US for trace amounts of lead in food.

In response to a request for comment, Gerber said that samples of its baby foods and juices "consistently fall well within the available guidance levels and meet our own strict standards".

Years of studies have shown that children exposed to lead can experience behavioral problems and develop lower IQs and that the damage can be irreversible. "The crackers and cookies category was next with 47 percent followed by fruits, including juices, with 29 percent", according to the EDF.

The FDA says the administration set a maximum daily lead intake of six micrograms, which is being reviewed, saying on its website, "lead is in food because it is in the environment and lead can not simply be removed from food". As with the lead data, increases in these numbers alert organizations to potential problems, but they don't give enough indication to pinpoint the exact nature of the problem. As a comparison, the non-baby versions contain significantly less lead.

Average dietary lead exposure for young children is around 2.9 µg/day, which approximately equates to daily levels in food at about 2.9 ppb (assuming average consumption of about 1 kg of food).

"I can't explain it other than I assume the baby food is processed more", Neltner said.

In all, the EDF review surmised some 1 million children consume amounts of lead that are above the FDA's "safe" limit.

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