Heinz to Launch 100% Natural Plant-Based Baby Food Range in the U.K.

Food processing company Heinz has been producing baby food for decades. Now, it’s set to launch a plant-based range after market research showed parents weren’t satisfied with the options available.

The range, called Heinz for Baby Pulses, consists of three options — Saucy Pasta Stars with Beans & Carrot, Potato Bake with Green Beans & Sweet Garden Peas, and Risotto with Chickpeas & Pumpkin. All three options are free of added sugar and salt. They also count towards the recommended five daily servings of fruit and vegetables.

The products will launch in June, with a RRP of £0.90.

Rising demand for plant-based baby food

Heinz has increased its plant-based range in recent months, launching vegan salad cream and three varieties of vegan mayo at the start of the year. It also introduced two flavours of bean burgers.

The plant-based baby food launch is a logical next step. British vegan baby food startup Mamamade recorded a 300% increase in sales in just a few months last year, showing that there is huge demand, and plant-based infant formula brand Else Nutrition is also experiencing increasing success.

“We are so excited to be launching this new range for little ones, made with their budding taste buds and parents’ needs in mind,” Heinz for Baby Senior Brand Manager Georgina Fotopoulou told Vegan Food & Living. “At Heinz for Baby we have 90 years of experience when it comes to making baby food, and we know how important it is for parents to make sure their little ones get just the right balance of tasty and unique texture and flavour food. So we can’t wait to see what babies, toddlers and their parents think!”

Source: Vegconomist

How Safe is Your Baby Food? Company Reports Show Arsenic, Lead and Other Heavy Metals

C. Michael White wrote . . . . . . . . .

Heavy metals including lead, arsenic and mercury can be found in commercial baby foods at levels well above what the federal government considers safe for children, a new congressional report warns.

Members of Congress asked seven major baby food makers to hand over test results and other internal documents after a 2019 report found that, out of 168 baby food products, 95% contained at least one heavy metal. Foods with rice or root vegetables, like carrots and sweet potatoes, had some of the highest levels, but they weren’t the only ones.

How concerned should parents be and what can they do to reduce their child’s exposure?

As a professor and pharmacist, I have investigated health safety concerns for several years in drugs and dietary supplements, including contamination with heavy metals and the chemical NDMA, a likely carcinogen. Here are answers to four questions parents are asking about the risks in baby food.

How do heavy metals get into baby food?

Heavy metals come from the natural erosion of the Earth’s crust, but humans have dramatically accelerated environmental exposure to heavy metals, as well.

As coal is burned, it releases heavy metals into the air. Lead was commonly found in gasoline, paint, pipes and pottery glazes for decades. A pesticide with both lead and arsenic was widely used on crops and in orchards until it was banned in 1988, and phosphate-containing fertilizers, including organic varieties, still contain small amounts of cadmium, arsenic, mercury and lead.

These heavy metals still contaminate soil, and irrigation can expose more soil to heavy metals in water.

When food is grown in contaminated soil and irrigated with water containing heavy metals, the food becomes contaminated. Additional heavy metals can be introduced during manufacturing processes.

The United States has made major strides to reduce the use of fossil fuels, filter pollutants and remove lead from many products such as gasoline and paint. This reduced exposure to lead in the air by 98% from 1980 to 2019. Processes can now also remove a proportion of the heavy metals from drinking water. However, the heavy metals that accumulated in the soil over the decades is an ongoing problem, especially in developing countries.

How much heavy metal is too much?

The World Health Organization and the Food and Drug Administration have defined tolerable daily intakes of heavy metals. However, it’s important to recognize that for many heavy metals, including lead and arsenic, there is no daily intake that is completely devoid of long-term health risk.

For lead, the FDA considers 3 micrograms per day or more to be cause for concern in children, well below the level for adults (12.5 micrograms per day).

Young children’s bodies are smaller than adults, and lead can’t be stored as readily in the bone, so the same dose of heavy metals causes much greater blood concentrations in young children where it can do more damage. In addition, young brains are more rapidly developing and are therefore at greater risk of neurological damage.

These lead levels are about one-tenth of the dose needed to achieve a blood lead concentration associated with major neurological problems, including the development of behavioral issues like aggression and attention deficit disorder. That doesn’t mean lower doses are safe, though. Recent research shows that lower blood lead levels still impact neurological function, just not as dramatically.

For other heavy metals, the daily intake considered tolerable is based on body weight: mercury is 4 micrograms per kilogram of body weight; arsenic is not currently defined but before 2011 it was 2.1 micrograms per kilogram of body weight.

Like with lead, there is a considerable safety margin between the tolerable dose and the dose that poses high risk of causing neurological harm, anemia, liver and kidney damage and an increased risk of cancer. But even smaller amounts still carry risks.

One example of the exposure infants can face is a brand of carrot baby food found to have 23.5 parts of lead per billion, equivalent to 0.67 micrograms of lead per ounce. Since the average 6-month-old eats 4 ounces of vegetables a day, that would be 2.7 micrograms of lead a day – almost the maximum tolerable daily dose.

What can parents do to reduce a child’s exposure?

Since the amount of heavy metals varies so dramatically, food choices can make a difference. Here are a few ways to reduce a young child’s exposure.

1) Minimize the use of rice-based products, including rice cereal, puffed rice and rice-based teething biscuits. Switching from rice-based products to those made with oats, corn, barley or quinoa could reduce the ingestion of arsenic by 84% and total heavy metal content by about 64%, according to the study of 168 baby food products by the group Healthy Babies Bright Futures.

Using frozen banana pieces or a clean washcloth instead of a rice cereal based teething biscuit was found to reduce the total heavy metal exposure by about 91%.

2) Switch from fruit juices to water. Fruit juice is not recommended for small children because it is laden with sugar, but it also is a source of heavy metals. Switching to water could reduce the intake of heavy metals by about 68%, according to the report.

3) Alternate between root vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, and other vegetables. The roots of plants are in closest contact with the soil and have higher concentrations of heavy metals than other vegetables. Switching from carrots or sweet potatoes to other vegetables could decrease the total heavy metal content on that day by about 73%. Root vegetables have vitamins and other nutrients, so you don’t have to abandon them altogether, but use them sparingly.

Making your own baby food may not reduce your child’s exposure to heavy metals. It depends on the heavy metal dosage in each of the ingredients that you are using. Organic may not automatically mean the heavy metal content is lower because soil could have been contaminated for generations before its conversion, and neighboring farm water runoff could contaminate common water sources.

Is anyone doing anything about it?

The congressional report calls for the FDA to better define acceptable limits for heavy metals in baby food. It points out that the heavy metal levels found in some baby foods far exceed the maximum levels allowed in bottled water. It also recommends standards for testing in the industry, and suggests requiring baby food makers to report heavy metals amounts on their product labels so parents can make informed choices.

Baby food manufacturers are also discussing the issue. The Baby Food Council was created in 2019 to bring together major infant and toddler food companies and advocacy and research groups with the goal of reducing heavy metals in baby food products. They created a Baby Food Standard and Certification Program to work collaboratively on testing and certification of raw ingredients. Ultimately, baby food makers will need to consider changing farm sources of raw ingredients, using fewer seasonings and altering processing practices.

The U.S. has made important inroads in reducing heavy metals in air and water since the 1980s, dramatically lowering exposure. With additional focus, it can further reduce heavy metal exposure in baby food, too.

Source: The Conversation

High Levels of Toxic Heavy Metals Found in Some Baby Food: U.S. Report

David Shepardson and Susan Heavey wrote . . . . . . . . .

U.S. congressional investigators found “dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals” in certain baby foods that could cause neurological damage, a House Oversight subcommittee said in a report released on Thursday in calling for new standards and testing requirements.

The panel examined products made by Nurture Inc, Hain Celestial Group Inc, Beech-Nut Nutrition and Gerber, a unit of Nestle, it said, adding that it was “greatly concerned” that Walmart Inc, Campbell Soup Co and Sprout Organic Foods refused to cooperate with the investigation. The U.S. baby food market was worth an estimated $8 billion in 2020, according to Euromonitor.

The report said internal company standards “permit dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals, and documents revealed that the manufacturers have often sold foods that exceeded those levels.”

The report urged U.S. regulators to set maximum levels of toxic heavy metals permitted in baby foods and require manufacturers to test finished products for heavy metals, not just ingredients, while baby food companies said they were working to reducing levels of metals that occur naturally in food products.

Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat who chairs the panel that released the report, said it found “these manufacturers knowingly sell baby food containing high levels of toxic heavy metals … It’s time that we develop much better standards for the sake of future generations.”

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesman said the agency was reviewing the report.

The agency noted toxic elements are present in the environment and enter the food supply through soil, water or air. “Because they cannot be completely removed, our goal is to reduce exposure to toxic elements in foods to the greatest extent feasible,” the FDA said.

Campbell said in a statement on its website that its products are safe and cited the lack of a current FDA standard for heavy metals in baby food. The market’s sixth biggest brand said it thought it had been “full partners” in the study with congressional researchers.

Walmart said it submitted information to the committee in February 2020 and never received any subsequent inquiries. The retail giant requires private label product suppliers to hew to its own internal specifications, “which for baby and toddler food means the levels must meet or fall below the limits established by the FDA.”

Happy Family Organics said it was “disappointed at the many inaccuracies, select data usage and tone bias in this report. We can say with the utmost confidence that all Happy Family Organics products are safe for babies and toddlers to enjoy.” It added it welcomes “additional guidelines from the FDA.”

Hain Celestial – the baby food market’s No.4. player which makes Earth’s Best – said the “report examined outdated data and does not reflect our current practices” and said it “inaccurately characterized a meeting with the FDA.”

Hain added since then it “took several steps to reduce the levels of heavy metals in our finished products – including no longer using brown rice in our products that are primarily rice based, changing other ingredients and conducting additional testing of finished product before shipping.”

A representative from Gerber – which sells about a fifth of all baby food in the United States – said the elements in question occur naturally in the soil and water in which crops are grown and added it takes multiple steps “to minimize their presence.”

Beech-Nut Nutrition said it was reviewing the report and is working with other companies “on science-based standards that food suppliers can implement across our industry.”

The report was critical also of the administration of former President Donald Trump, saying it “ignored a secret industry presentation to federal regulators revealing increased risks of toxic heavy metals in baby foods.”

The report said “in 100% of the Hain baby foods tested, inorganic arsenic levels were higher in the finished baby food than the company estimated they would be based on individual ingredient testing.”

It said that in August 2019 the FDA received a secret slide presentation from Hain that said “corporate policies to test only ingredients, not final products, underrepresent the levels of toxic heavy metals in baby foods.”

The report said the FDA took no new action in response. “To this day, baby foods containing toxic heavy metals bear no label or warning to parents. Manufacturers are free to test only ingredients, or, for the vast majority of baby foods, to conduct no testing at all,” the report said.

The FDA has declared that inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury are dangerous, particularly to infants and children, the report noted.

The FDA in August finalized guidance to industry, setting an action level of 100 parts per billion inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal.

“We acknowledge that there is more work to be done, but the FDA reiterates its strong commitment to continue to reduce consumer exposure to toxic elements and other contaminants from food,” the FDA said Thursday.

Source: Reuters

WHO Says Baby Food Has Too Much Sugar And Is Marketed Wrongly

Sarah Boseley wrote . . . . . . . . .

Commercial baby foods contain too much sugar – even when they are labelled as savoury meals, says the World Health Organization, which is seeking a ban on added sugars in foods for children under 36 months old.

WHO Europe is calling for a crackdown on the high levels of sugar in the diet of babies fed on commercially available foods, warning that their first teeth may suffer and they are at risk of developing a preference for sweet foods, which may lead to overweight and obesity-related disease in adulthood.

It also says sugar-laden baby foods are being inappropriately marketed for babies under the age of six months, even though the WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to that age.

An analysis from WHO Europe of what was for sale in the UK, Denmark and Spain in 2016-17 showed that commercially available baby foods generally complied with guidance on salt, protein, fat and carbohydrate, but many products were high in sugar.

Sugars accounted for 70% of the food calories in fruit purees, but the purees were also added to savoury meals. “Many savoury type meals sold in the United Kingdom and Denmark derived over 15% energy from total sugars, with fruit purée providing much of the sugar content even in ostensibly savoury products,” said the WHO report.

These can be considered free sugars, just as they are in fruit juice, and if eaten frequently “may pose a threat to the very young as first teeth erupt”. The sweetness may also influence the child’s food preferences as they grow up, said the report.

The report, described as a discussion paper, sets out WHO Europe’s recommendations for a “nutrient profile model” for baby foods.

The WHO says all added sugars, including fruit juice concentrate, should be banned from all commercial baby foods. No foods should contain more than 5% of pureed fruit by total weight, particularly in savoury foods. Dry savoury snack foods, such as biscuits, should not have more than 15% of calories supplied by sugar.

Fruit drinks and juices, sweetened cows’ milk and milk alternatives, confectionery and sweet snacks should not be marketed as suitable for infants and young children up to 36 months.

The WHO says the labelling of sugar in baby foods needs improvement. Many baby foods in the UK have misleading labels, it says. Cow & Gate’s butternut squash, chicken and pasta for babies from seven months does not name the largest vegetable component, while chicken is only 9.5%. It suggests it should be renamed “Tomato pasta with butternut squash and chicken”. Heinz strawberry, raspberry and banana puree sold for babies from four months does not have the main ingredient in the name. It should be called concentrated apple puree (79%) with banana (8%) and raspberry (5%), it suggests.

The lead author, Dr João Breda, head of the WHO European office for prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases, said they were very concerned about the high levels of sugar in baby foods and the labelling of products.

“In these commercial products we found a very significant amount have added sugar,” he said. “There is way too much sugar. Added sugar in many products should be eliminated, in our view. The total amount of sugar is also too high in many products. And we have issues with marketing. A lot of products are marketed as suitable at four months and under six months, totally against the WHO guidelines.”

Although babies like the sweetness of breast milk, it was important to let them explore different tastes after six months, he said. “We are talking about diversification of the diet at six months. It is really crucial you have products that are not only sweet products. If babies are exposed to different tastes from the beginning, they will be more willing to try other things.”

He said there was already a move to reformulate these products in the food industry, which he hoped governments would encourage.

A second report finds widespread inappropriate promotion of commercial baby foods in four countries – Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Israel, all of which are in the WHO’s Europe region – even though guidance on the claims that can be made was agreed in 2016.

Across all four countries, 28% to 60% of baby foods were marketed as suitable for under six months, in violation of the WHO’s code. The agency recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to six months. Between a third and three-quarters of products made health claims, which are also not allowed under the guidelines, and 16% to 53% had cartoon characters on the labelling, which is not recommended because it encourages “pester power” in children. Sweet flavours predominated in the products.

Source: The Guardian