By: Kerry Bazany
I usually begin my articles with some reminiscence about when my own children were growing up, mostly because I wish I was more informed as to some of the scientific evidence that is available today as it pertains to food safety. I suppose that I had little to no experience or knowledge of the potential risks of foodborne illnesses as a result of the exposure to pathogens. Thankfully, all of my daughters have “survived” their infancy and childhoods, and with a plethora of new facts about food safety, they will be better armed to ensure that their own children will be safely nourished. (P.S… bring on the grandchildren)!
Let’s Talk About Baby Digestion
At birth, your baby’s digestive tract is not fully functional, and therefore is vulnerable to infection. In his or her gastrointestinal tract, any food that is consumed is not quite ready to fight off bacteria and other pathogens due to lack of enzyme production. Consequently, your baby’s ingestion of anything that is potentially harmful can wreak havoc with his or her developing body.
After a baby is weaned from breast milk or formula, a baby is presented with the smorgasbord of tastes and textures that are in solid foods. This can be an exciting experience for your baby! Therefore, what you present to your baby can influence your child’s food preferences and even their metabolism throughout their lives. So what to avoid?
Pesticides and Carcinogens in Baby Food
- Arsenic In a study conducted by Consumer Reports, the dangerous carcinogen arsenic was found in measurable amounts in grocery products manufactured with rice, and this includes baby cereal. Many infant rice cereals, often an infant’s first solid food, had “at least five times more inorganic arsenic that has been found in oatmeal. Given our findings, we suggest limiting the consumption of rice products”.
- Lead In a study in 2010, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) found trace amounts of lead in leading baby food products. This is concerning because no discernible amounts of lead in infant and baby food products have been found to be safe. Out of 146 national brands, one hundred and twenty five samples contaminated levels of lead higher than the amount allowed, including apple and grace juices. (Environmental Law Foundation, 2010).
- Fluoride Excess fluoride as found in many varieties of baby food, can affect babies. According to a report by General Dentistry, dental fluorosis, can develop in infants. This results in white spotted, yellow, brown and/or pitted teeth those results from excessive fluoride consumption during the first two years of life.
- Sugar Babies have very sensitive taste buds, but it is unnecessary to add artificial sweetener to baby foods. Both natural and artificial sweeteners are not necessary to appeal to baby’s taste buds. Processed sugar especially is toxic to a baby’s developing body.
- Benzene Additionally, food products containing carrots that have been heat-treated — a standard for baby foods, found high levels of the carcinogen Benzene, according to a study released by the Open Toxicology Journal.
- Leeched Chemicals BPA is used to make plastic and is a dangerous chemical. Traces of PBA can still be found in the lids and seals of baby foods. Check out the Environmental Working Environmental Working Groups guide to BPAfor more information.
Should I Be Concerned About the Pesticides in my Baby’s Foods?
Yes. Pesticide residues are often found on produce, and fruits and vegetables are an important part of your child’s diet.
Pesticides protect crops from damage, which helps keep groceries affordable. But research shows that pesticides also contribute to a wide range of health problems, including cancer, lung disease, reproductive problems, and possibly disorders of the endocrine and immune systems.
Animal testing indicates that pesticides can cause permanent changes in brain chemistry that may lead to behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, and even long-term damage to the brain and nervous system.
Parents need to know that various government agencies, including the FDA, the EPA and the USDA, continually monitor for excessive levels of contaminants in our food. Should levels exceed the current FDA guidance levels, companies will have to immediately act to ensure only the safest product is available for you to feed your children? Keep in mind that facts in context are more useful than misguided fear.
CC: All plant-based foods contain trace amounts of arsenic, including grains, such as rice, corn, and wheat, fruits and vegetables, as well as wine, and some juices. Rice has been shown to absorb more arsenic than other grains because it’s grown with large amounts of water.
So Now What?
You are a busy mom, and I can completely relate. You want to give your baby the best possible nutrition, but what I have stated above possibly frightens you.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) points out that the negative impact of not including fruits and vegetables in your child’s diet is far greater than any potential risk from pesticides at the levels found in produce.
What can I do to protect my child from pesticides in food?
These simple steps can greatly reduce the amount of pesticides in your family’s food:
- Wash all produce.
- Peel fruits and vegetables, and remove the outer leaves of vegetables like lettuce and cabbage.
- Scrub (under running water) all fruits and vegetables that you don’t peel. Cleaning products specifically designed to wash produce may also help.
- Some foods – like strawberries, grapes, broccoli, lettuce, and spinach – are more difficult to wash. Soak these briefly, then rinse.
- Choose produce without mold, bruising, and decay. These are likely to harbor more pesticides.
- Trim the fat off meat and remove the skin from poultry. Pesticides (and other environmental chemicals) are often concentrated in the fat and skin of poultry, and meat.