Top of page

Attorney General of Virginia

Image of the Virginia AG Seal

Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

 

For media inquiries only, contact:  
Charlotte Gomer, Director of Communication
Phone: (804)786-1022 
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING URGES FDA TO ACCELERATE ACTIONS TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM TOXIC METALS IN BABY FOOD

RICHMOND – Attorney General Mark R. Herring is petitioning the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to protect the health and well-being of babies across the United States by accelerating actions to remove toxic heavy metals found in infant and toddler foods. Attorney General Herring joins a coalition of 23 attorneys general in sending this petition in response to rising alarm about the health hazards posed by dangerous heavy metals in these foods, and the failure of baby food brands and their suppliers to aggressively reduce these hazards.

 

“Babies are some of the most vulnerable members of our population and it’s crucial that we make sure they are kept safe and healthy,” said Attorney General Herring. “The high levels of toxins and heavy metals that have been found in infant and toddler foods is incredibly concerning. It’s imperative that the FDA make changes to baby food regulations as quickly as possible to ensure that we are not putting the health of babies in this country at risk simply because of the food they are eating.”

 

In February 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Oversight and Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy published a report that determined that there are high levels of toxic heavy metals — including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury — in baby foods being sold by at least four of the nation’s seven largest manufacturers. The subcommittee issued a follow-up report last month that urged the FDA “to move expeditiously to set limits for arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury in baby foods.”  

 

Though the FDA does set limits on toxic metals in other consumable products — like bottled water, juice, and candy — the agency has failed to adequately regulate baby food, and has, so far, only established just one action level for one type of heavy metal (inorganic arsenic) in one type of baby food product (infant rice cereal). This lack of oversight comes despite the fact that the FDA has concluded that babies’ and young children’s smaller body sizes and metabolisms make them more vulnerable to the harmful neurotoxic effects of these metals. 

 

The petition sent by Attorney General Herring and his colleagues seeks to strengthen protections for young children by urging the FDA to issue interim action levels for limiting heavy metal contamination in baby food more swiftly than the timelines announced by the FDA in their “Closer to Zero plan,” announced this past April. Under that plan, the FDA would propose guidance on limiting lead in baby food by the middle of 2022, guidance for limiting inorganic arsenic by April 2024, and guidance for limiting cadmium and mercury sometime after April 2024. The members of the “Baby Food Council” — a group created in 2019 by four of the largest baby food brands — have not publicly committed to meeting any particular voluntary targets for reducing the levels of heavy metals in their products, pending FDA action. 

 

Specifically, today’s petition calls on the FDA to:   

  • Propose science-based, achievability-focused interim limits for inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury in relevant categories of infant and toddler foods; 
  • Propose a lower limit for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal than that currently set forth in FDA guidance; and  
  • Instruct all baby food manufacturers to test their finished products for toxic heavy metals.   

 

Attorney General Herring and his colleagues are urging the FDA to take these actions no later than April 2022, the shortest timeframe for requesting FDA action on a petition under the agency’s regulations. 

 

Joining Attorney General Herring in sending today’s petition are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

  

###