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FDA announces new actions aimed at reducing toxic elements in food for babies, young children

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The FDA routinely monitors levels of toxic elements in food, and if the agency find that they pose a health risk, the FDA takes steps to remove those foods from the market

Credit: Be-Art/iStock/Getty Images Plus

(WYTV) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced new actions aimed at further preventing or reducing chemical hazards that may be present in foods for babies and young children.

Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. and Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, made the announcement Friday.

The FDA issued a letter to remind manufacturers of these types of foods and of their existing responsibilities related to these efforts.

Read the letter to industry here

The agency also announced that they will soon be putting into action a plan aimed at reducing toxic elements in foods for babies and young children to levels as low as is reasonably achievable.

“We share the public’s concerns for the health of America’s children, and want to reassure parents and caregivers that at the levels we have found through our testing, children are not at an immediate health risk from exposure to toxic elements in foods,” they said in a release.

The FDA routinely monitors levels of toxic elements in food, and if the agency finds that they pose a health risk, the FDA takes steps to remove those foods from the market.

Research has shown that reducing exposure to toxic elements is important to minimize any potential long-term effects on the developing brains of infants and children. 

A report released last month by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy also highlighted important questions on what more can be done to reduce toxic elements in baby food.

The FDA issued a letter to manufacturers of foods for babies and young children covered by the preventive control provisions of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food rule, as well as persons covered under other rules requiring a hazard analysis.

The letter reminds them of their existing responsibility to consider risks from chemical hazards, including toxic elements, when conducting a hazard analysis, including for products for babies and young children.

The preventive control provisions require the industry to implement controls to significantly minimize or prevent any identified chemical hazards requiring a control.

To build on their ongoing work with regulated industry in this area, they intend to address the following areas:

  • Issuing guidance to identify action levels for contaminants in key foods, with plans to revisit those levels on a regular basis and lower them if appropriate, as well as providing guidance to industry on how to meet their obligations under current regulations
  • Increasing inspections and, as appropriate, taking compliance and enforcement actions
  • Boosting sampling of foods for babies and young children, including sharing results
  • Working with government, academia and industry to support research and development of additional safety information on toxic elements in foods for babies and young children and additional steps that industry can take to further reduce levels

Their new activities will further efforts that the agency has continued to take in this area, including their work in 2020 to finalize an action level for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal.

They will be working to develop additional action levels, finalize draft guidance on reducing inorganic arsenic in apple juice and publish a draft guidance that will establish action levels for lead in juices.

These activities, along with an increase in sampling and reporting, will help continue to drive down levels of toxic elements in foods.

It’s important to understand that toxic elements are present in the environment, including in the air, water and soil, and therefore are unavoidable in the general food supply. This is why another part of the plan is to ramp up the availability of consumer information and resources that underscore how the key to a healthy diet including for infants and young children is variety.

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