As the FDA aims to lower levels of toxic metals in children's food, a registered dietitian explains why
ATLANTA - Some of the foods babies love, like cereals, and puréed fruits and vegetables, and rice products can contain low levels of potentially toxic heavy metals.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury can either occur naturally in soil and water, or end up there as a result of environmental pollution.
As plants grow, they take up the toxins in the soil and water.
An FDA working group is looking at ways to lower levels of the metals in the food supply.
Katherine Shary, a registered dietitian with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Strong4Life program, says the agency's main focus is the food infants and young children are eating.
"Because we know that these little babies, their bodies are growing at a rapid pace, their brains are growing at a rapid pace," Shary says. "So, we need to make sure that there is as little heavy metals in their food as possible because heavy metals can have neurological defects on children."
Shary says you will find typically higher levels of metals in certain foods grown in soil or water.
"You're going to find heavier amounts of lead in things like potatoes, in carrots, root vegetables, things that are grown in the soil, whereas with foods that might have a lot of water production, such as rice, we're going to see more arsenic," she explains.
But Shary does not recommend writing off potatoes or rice or any other fruit or vegetables.
"We do not want to cut out these foods or make drastic changes and say, 'I can't have this ever because there are heavy metals,'" Shary says. "We want to be cautious, be mindful, continuing to eat those foods because they have good nutrition."
Just be aware, she says, of how often your children are eating foods that can be higher in toxins, and try to vary their diet as much as you can.
"(We are) Making sure that we're including fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins within our meals and different foods," she says. "Different colors, different foods on those plates to help decrease our heavy metal exposure as well."