The February 2021 news about toxic metals in many top baby food brands was saddening for most parents. They ask, “what is the best organic baby food out there?” There is no need to panic.
Though some of the top brands we trusted have failed us, a few others are dependable and safe for our babies.
This article contains my findings on the best organic baby food without heavy metals and some brands you should avoid.
Heavy metals in baby food
The heavy metals found in baby food include arsenic, lead, mercury, and cadmium. A study carried out in 2019 by the Healthy Babies Bright Futures & Partners, with 61 brands and 168 baby food products tested; the result became a source of great concern.
They found out that:
- There was at least one heavy metal contaminant (lead, arsenic, mercury, or cadmium) in 95% of the baby foods that were tested
- Lead was discovered in 94% of the tested baby foods
- Cadmium was discovered in 75% of the tested baby foods
- Arsenic was discovered in 73% of the tested baby foods
- Mercury was discovered in 32% of the tested baby foods
- A single container of baby foods could contain a lot of contaminants. Here are the details:
- 26% of the tested baby foods had 4 metals
- 40% of the tested baby food had 3 metals
- 21% of the tested baby food had 2 metals
- 8% of the tested baby food had 1 metal
- 9 testes foods contained 0 metals
The federal government of the USA has not set standards for heavy metals in baby foods in the country. This means that one has to dig in to find the safest foods.
What are the culprits?
Heavy metals are parts of the earth’s crust and are primarily found in water and soil. They get into the baby foods through the ingredients from the farm, and most times, they cannot be entirely removed by processing.
They are primarily found in rice, sweet potatoes, and carrots. The biggest offender is rice, but it does not affect babies since it is mainly used in puff cereals for toddlers.
However, when your baby takes baby foods made with sweet potato or carrots, there is a tendency that they are taking in some proportions of these toxins.
However, the Healthy Babies Bright Future and Partners do not advise parents to kick out diets with sweet potato and carrot completely. Instead, they should use these foods alongside others to limit their children’s exposure to the toxins.
Sweet potatoes and carrots are high in vitamin A and high in heavy metals (precisely cadmium and lead), and babies still need the nutritional value of these veggies.
Effects of heavy metals on developing children
We are all used to the news that heavy metals are dangerous to human health. However, their dangers are even more enormous with children. It is hurtful to the brain and nervous system of a growing child both when they are in the uterus and after birth.
Cadmium, lead, arsenic, and mercury have been found to affect the development of the brain negatively, and this inspired the 23 peer-reviewed studies that have been carried out in the past seven years.
From these studies, we learned that the symptoms of heavy metal contamination in a growing child include:
- Attention deficit syndromes (ADD)
- Loss of IQ
- Some learning and behavioral impairment
You need to know that cadmium, lead, and arsenic are carcinogens; this means that they can cause cancer in your growing child.
Also, the health advocates at Abt Associates studied some data of the national surveys of food contamination and consumption of American children within the ages of 0 to 24. They found out that American children lose 11 million IQ points due to their exposure to lead and arsenic in baby foods.
It is time to find some of the brands that have these contaminants and avoid them.
Brands of organic baby food to avoid
Here is a warning: these baby brands to avoid are those we have trusted for decades. The number one is Walmart Parent choice organic baby foods, but research proved them unsafe.
These brands were carefully picked by the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Committee on Oversight and Reform and presented in the 2021 baby food report as foods with contaminants for babies.
The main reason this is on the top of the list is because of their lack of cooperation for the research. These three companies did not allow their products to be tested for contaminants, and the Subcommittee is greatly concerned about this.
This lack of cooperation points only to one direction in everyone’s mind, just like it does with the members of the Subcommittee. Why would you keep your brand from being tested if there is nothing to hide?
This means that there could be higher levels of contaminants in these foods than those that are tested.
Also, independent testing of baby foods from Walmart, Sprout Organic Foods, and Campbell showed specific amounts of toxic heavy metals in them.
The report stated that the ingredients used by Beech-Nut contained 913.4 ppb (part per billion) arsenic, and the additives routinely used by these manufacturers are high in arsenic at about 300 ppb.
The same ingredients used by Beech-Nut contain up to 886.9 ppb of lead, and many of the ingredients used for it contained a high amount of lead. 483 ingredients had more than 5 ppb lead, 89 had more than 15 ppb lead, and 57 had more than 20 ppb lead.
105 ingredients used by Beech-Nut had more than 20 ppb of cadmium, and some tested higher, up to 344.55 ppb cadmium.
It is also found that Beech-Nut does not even test its baby foods for mercury. This and more are the reasons you should avoid baby foods from Beech-Nut.
The finished product from Hain (Earth’s Best Organic) contained 129 ppb inorganic arsenic. Also, the company only tests its ingredient, not the finished product, and still, according to research, Hain (Earth’s Best Organic) uses ingredients that tested up to 309 ppb arsenic.
Their ingredients also contained 352 ppb lead, with 88 of them having 20 ppb leas and 6 with more than 200 ppb lead.
20 ppb cadmium was also found in 102 ingredients of their baby food, and some other elements had more than that, up to 260 ppb.
Though Hain (Earth’s Best Organic)’s internal standard for lead, arsenic, and cadmium in its ingredient is 200 ppb, they defy this and use ingredients with up to 309 ppb arsenic and 353 ppb lead.
Nurture (HappyBABY) sold more of their baby foods after testing and discovering up to 180 ppb inorganic arsenic in them. More than 25% of their tested products before sales had more than 100 ppb inorganic arsenic, and their testing still shows that the typical baby food they sell contains 60 ppb inorganic arsenic.
The same company’s finished products tested for over 641 ppb lead, and 20% of their bay products had more than 10 ppb lead.
Their cadmium content is over 5 ppb in 65% of their products, and mercury was present in their finished products as high as 10 ppb.
Though Nurture (HappyBABY) found these toxins in their baby products, they still went on to sell; it proves that they are not safe for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration sets the standard of inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal to be 100 ppb, but Nurture (HappyBABY) places its level at 115 ppb.
67 batches of rice flour used for Gerber’s baby food contain 90 ppb of inorganic arsenic. Their ingredients also tested for 48 ppb of lead, and others have more than 20 ppb lead.
An excess of 5 ppb cadmium was also found in 75% of Gerber’s carrots, with some others having up to 87 ppb cadmium.
Also, Gerber rarely tests for mercury in their baby foods before sending them to the market.
The best organic baby food brands
This brand of best organic baby food is certified by USDA, and they are very committed to safety. They use only organic ingredients and do heavy metal testing before sending out their products.
They get their ingredients from only Non-GMO Project, and USDA certified farms. Also, they choose the best farms from the federal soil contamination data and test for heavy metals in both the ingredients and soil.
Since rice, soy, and fruit juice are found to be the primary sources of heavy metal in baby food, this company avoids them totally and only uses organic ingredients that are free from chemical fertilizers and pesticides (as recommended by the USDA).
Their meals are made without preservatives (which are also a known source of heavy metals) and should be refrigerated and finished within 1 week. It can survive for 2 months if you use a freezer. Also, when open, ensure you use it within 24 hours.
How will I get their food?
You need to register with the Yumi website to get their food for your baby. During the registration, they will ask for your baby’s birth date and use it to recommend the best meal plan for him/her.
You will also choose the flavor and mention if you want to order 1, 2, or 3 meals a day.
They will send you the order of freshly made baby food each week, and you can freely change the flavor of baby food you receive when you want.
They come at different prices based on the number of jars your order. However, the cheapest you will get is when you order for the 24-jar plan, but you should test the product with the 8-jar plan first.
This company offers cold-pressed baby foods with no preservatives. They are certified organic and non-GMO (genetically modified organisms).
Like the Yumi foods, they use perishable products without preservatives and must be refrigerated. They mainly produce whole foods, and you will mostly find them in the refrigerated section of the store.
Their foods are not produced with heat, but cold pressing, which uses high pressure. This ensures that the food maintains its texture, color, taste, and nutritional value.
These products are slightly expensive, but you can find the cheapest on amazon.
This British brand produces some of the best organic baby foods. Their foods are primarily veggie-based instead of the regular fruit-based.
Though it can be challenging to see their products in stores, you can always find some on amazon. They cost a little higher than $2 per pouch and compared to their quality, that’s not so bad.
When feeding your baby with these foods, limit the sweet potatoes broccoli + carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, sweet potato + parsnips, parsnips, carrots, and chickpea + sweat potato mash with sweet corn.
There is a tendency of heavy metal contamination in these products, and you should only feed your child sparingly with them.
This is a new and expensive brand. Their products are certified organic and non-GMO by the USDA.
Their foods are mostly known to be healthy with little sugar and fruits. However, they have some baby fruit purees, which you should be sure to avoid.
Though their foods are good, they are only available online, and only people in CA, WA, ID, OR, UT, AZ, NV, and CO states of the US can receive the delivery.
Also, they are expensive, with a 113g of meal costing $5.64 and 14 meals at $79.
Nevertheless, you can still get these foods if you are in the listed states and can afford them. They will arrive as frozen foods, and all you need to do is reheat and serve your baby.
This is another new company that deals with freshly prepared baby food blends. They do not use any preservatives, and all their foods must be consumed within 14 days. After these, they are only useful to the trash.
Little Spoon produces its foods in Southern California, and you can only get the foods from their website. You can subscribe and get the food delivered to you if you are in the continental USA.
Their prices are different and are based on your location. A sample for the meal plan for “90210” Beverly Hills ranged from $3.93 per meal for 1 meal a day to $2.98 per meal for 3 meals a day.
This is a great but expensive brand for your baby. USDA does not certify all its products organic because of some reasons:
- Wild salmon is not a product of agriculture and cannot be certified organic
- Pork and beef are raised organically with non-GMO hormones, antibiotics, and feeds, but the farmers can’t afford a USDA certification.
However, Serenity Kids claims that they get their ingredients and organic vegetables from the safest American-family farm with tested soil. Also, meats are generally low in heavy metals, which should not be a cause for concern.
This brand makes products with less sugar (4g per 100g pouch compared to others with 12g or more for the same pouch), and they have a money-back guarantee if your child does not appreciate their foods.
The con of this product is mainly the price. A pouch of meat protein is $4 and $23.95 for 6 pouches, and the veggie-only options are $2.30 per pouch and $13.95 for 6 pouches.
How do I protect my baby from heavy metals in baby foods?
The best way to be sure of your baby’s safety is by making your baby food. It is far better than store-bought foods and is very healthy for the growing child.
Besides that, it gives you the following benefits:
- Better pricing: making your baby’s food at home can be very economical; it is better than dishing out $5 per serving.
- More options: you are not limited to the type of food or flavors for your child. You will also get to explore the different kinds of food available until you know the ones that your child appreciates more. If your baby is picky, give them the combo! A wide variety of food makes babies less selective.
- An assurance of the safety of the ingredients: when you make your food, you will not wake up to the news of how many heavy metals it contained without your knowledge. Also, you can choose the ingredient to reduce in your baby’s food and the one to increase.
- You can regulate the amount of sugar: processed foods are usually higher in sugar, especially the puree, and very high sugar contents are not healthy for babies or anyone.
- Your child can learn to eat your regular family meals: this offers your baby the opportunity to explore the kinds of food you have and bond with other family members.
- It is time-saving: I know that it sounds doubtful, but spending an hour or two to make your baby food can give you the amount needed for a month’s feeding. Plus, the fact that your baby gets to eat healthily is time and problem-saving.
For your baby’s safety, you should make their foods at home, but where that is impossible, stick to the best organic baby foods mentioned above.
Throw out the old list of best organic baby foods and replace it with a few safer ones. Yumi is the best; they make the freshest organic food for your baby.