Heavy metals targets are challenging but feasible, says COO

The Baby Food Safety Act of 2021​ ​sets maximum levels for inorganic arsenic​ (10 ppb, 15 ppb for cereal), lead​ (5 ppb, 10 ppb for cereal), cadmium​ (5 ppb, 10 ppb for cereal), and mercury ​(2 ppb) that are well below internal thresholds set by many manufacturers, and significantly lower than recent FDA guidance on infant rice cereals (100ppb inorganic arsenic).

While some stakeholders ​feel that lawmakers have jumped the gun with this bill, and that thresholds should be “set by the FDA​ and guided by science,​” others say Congress “should not wait for the FDA to act.”

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi – who chairs the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy which released the recent baby food report​  – in turn has argued that firms should reformulate products if the targets in the bill are not achievable with existing recipes: “If it is not possible, or it is exceedingly costly, to source ingredients like rice that achieve a safe level, then baby food manufacturers should find substitutes for those ingredients.”

Thresholds are challenging… but they are a starting point

So where does this leave baby food companies?

Michael Pacyna – who was VP supply chain and procurement at Beyond Meat before joining Yumi​ as COO in 2019 – said: “It’s clear that there hasn’t been enough investigation to really determine what levels are appropriate and reachable for our products and what are appropriate for feeding to children whose brains are in the process of developing.”​ 

The “thresholds in the Baby Food Safety Act are challenging, without a doubt,” ​he told FoodNavigator-USA. But right now, ​he said, “as we don’t have federal guidelines, this ​[bill​] will at least start the conversation and put a stake in the ground for where we should start.”

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