New FDA guidance calls for lower lead concentrations in baby food and cereals : Shots - Health News Toxic metal can be harmful to developing brains. New lead targets are part of a broad FDA imitative to reduce children's exposure to the lowest levels possible.

The FDA proposes new targets to limit lead in baby food

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The Food and Drug Administration has proposed new targets to limit lead in baby food. Exposure to the toxic metal can be harmful to developing brains. As NPR's Allison Aubrey reports, the new targets are part of a broad initiative at the agency to reduce children's exposure to the lowest levels possible.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: It's not possible to completely eliminate all traces of lead from the food supply since the heavy metal is found throughout the environment and can be absorbed by plants, including vegetables, fruits and grains. But the new FDA guidance calls for limiting lead concentrations to 10 parts per billion in fruits, vegetables and meats packaged in baby food jars or pouches. The target is 20 parts per billion for dry cereals. Here's pediatrician Aaron Bernstein of Boston Children's Hospital.

AARON BERNSTEIN: We know the less amount of these metals in babies' bodies, the better. And so the goal here is to really minimize.

AUBREY: The FDA says there's already been a dramatic decline in lead exposure from foods since the 1980s. Lead was phased out of gasoline decades ago. And there's currently lots of federal funding to replace old water pipes that contain lead. And when it comes to lead in food, the American Academy of Pediatrics says one strategy parents can use is to avoid giving fruit juice to young children, since some juices can contain heavy metals.

BERNSTEIN: Fruit juices can have as much, if not more of these very metals that we're trying to minimize. So it's nutritionally not very good. And you don't need to give a child any juice.

AUBREY: He says most juice is just a sugar hit for kids. Pediatrician Leonardo Trasande of New York University says the FDA is moving in the right direction with these new target limits for lead. But he argues more needs to be done.

LEONARDO TRASANDE: As much as this is a baby step forward, the FDA has been glacial in its pace at addressing newer and emerging contaminants.

AUBREY: Such as phthalates used in food packaging and other non-stick chemicals used throughout the industry. He says we need to know more about how these compounds may influence children's health.

Allison Aubrey, NPR News.

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