Using a Federal Drug Administration (FDA) database of food samples, EDF reported some pretty worrying numbers, most remarkably in fruit juice samples intended for children.
Baby food was the main focus of the study because lead consumption can be detrimental to development. Numerous samples tested by FDA are already either lead-free (according to the limits of detection in the analyses used) or have low lead content.
"Lead can have a number of effects on children and it's especially harmful during critical windows of development", said Aparna Bole, a pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, who was not involved with the report.
The samples were not identified by brand, and while the levels of lead are thought to be relatively low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states there is no "safe" blood lead level in children, CNN reported.
In fact, nine out of 10 samples had detectable levels of lead for sweet potatoes and grape juice; it's about two out of three for arrowroot cookies, and about one in two samples for apple juice, carrots, and for teething biscuits, the study shows.
Group Warns of Lead in Baby Food
"Eight types of baby foods had detectable lead in more than 40 percent of samples". Exposure at a young age can permanently affect a developing brain, causing lifelong behavioral problems and lower IQ. Eighteen percent of the baby food samples tested above 5 ppb lead, which is the amount the FDA allows in drinking water.
But food is a source of lead exposure most of us probably aren't thinking about.
There is no known safe level of lead in blood, the study explained. The FDA data also lacked brand information.
In a statement, the FDA said the agency is "in the process of reevaluating the analytical methods it uses for determining when it should take action with respect to measured levels of lead in particular foods, including those consumed by infants and toddlers".
Baby foods contain more lead than regular foods. Parents should also have their children tested for lead, tell them to wash their hands often - especially before eating and sleeping, clean their toys and feed them healthy snacks such as yogurt, cheese slices and whole grain crackers, World Health Organization advises.
Neltner said he's glad the FDA is working on the issue but wants them to "get it done".
Root vegetable-based foods fared the worst, with 65 percent testing positive overall.
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