The guidance is for foods that are meant for infants and young kids under the age of two and that are processed, like those that are kept in certain types of packaging, the agency noted.
The action levels from the FDA include 10 parts per billion for specific produce, like vegetables and fruits, as well as mixes, meats that are one ingredient, custards or puddings, and yogurts. For root vegetables that are one ingredient, the levels are 20 parts per billion, and dry cereals’ levels are also 20 parts per billion.
“For more than 30 years, the FDA has been working to reduce exposure to lead, and other environmental contaminants, from foods. This work has resulted in a dramatic decline in lead exposure from foods since the mid-1980s,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said.
“For babies and young children who eat the foods covered in today’s draft guidance, the FDA estimates that these action levels could result in as much as a 24-27% reduction in exposure to lead from these foods,” Califf added.
When deciding on the levels, the agency took into account, with other items, the amount of lead that could be in a food item with no exposure from eating it surpassing the agency’s Interim Reference Level. It also pointed out that produce and grains naturally take in nutrients, but they can also bring on harmful materials.
The agency noted that the guidelines are not binding, but it would take the levels into consideration, along with other items, when deciding whether to “bring enforcement action” in certain situations. It also anticipates that the recommendations will push the makers of these products to bring the amount of lead in their items under the action levels set forth.
“The action levels in today’s draft guidance are not intended to direct consumers in making food choices. To support child growth and development, we recommend parents and caregivers feed children a varied and nutrient-dense diet across and within the main food groups of vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and protein foods,” said Susan Mayne, the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition director.
“This approach helps your children get important nutrients and may reduce potential harmful effects from exposure to contaminants from foods that take up contaminants from the environment,” Mayne added.
Some noted that the guidelines weren’t quite good enough to do much.
“Nearly all baby foods on the market already comply with what they have proposed,” Jane Houlihan, the National Director of Science and Health at Healthy Babies Bright Futures, said.
Consumer Reports noted that the FDA didn’t recommend levels for “baby junk food,” which it claimed can, many times, have the most lead.
“It appears that the proposed standards were set based more on current industry feasibility to achieve the limits and not solely on levels that would best protect public health,” Brian Ronholm, Consumer Reports’ director of food policy said.