Lead found in 20% of baby food samples

Lead exposure from paint chips and contaminated drinking water has been known to be hazardous to health but according to a new report, food, in particular baby food could also be a problem.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which analysed 11 years of federal data, found detectable levels of lead in 20 per cent of 2,164 baby food samples. The toxic metal was most commonly found in fruit juices such as grape and apple, root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and carrots, and cookies such as teething biscuits.

The primary focus of the organisation was on baby foods due to the detrimental effect lead could have on child development.

According to the study, children with elevated lead levels were not being tested or diagnosed.

"Lead can have a number of effects on children and it's especially harmful during critical windows of development," said Dr Aparna Bole, pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, who was not involved with the report, CNN reported. "The largest burden that we often think about is neurocognitive that can occur even at low levels of lead exposure."

Bole added that lead could cause problems with attention and behavior, cognitive development, the cardiovascular system and immune system.

Lead was found in 20 per cent of over 2,000 baby food samples, compared to 14 per cent in another 10,000 food samples, according to an Environmental Defense Fund analysis of Food and Drug Administration data released on Thursday.

Fruit juices were most often found to contain lead (89 per cent of grape juice samples and 55 per cent in apple juice samples), sweet potatoes (86 per cent of samples) and teething biscuits (47 per cent).

At least one sample in 52 of the 57 types of food evaluated had detectable lead and eight types of baby food were found to contain lead in 40 per cent of their samples as well.