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U.S. FDA looks to reduce toxic elements in baby food, boost inspections

Reuters logo Reuters 3/6/2021 By David Shepardson

Signage is seen outside of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in White Oak, Maryland, U.S., August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly © Thomson Reuters Signage is seen outside of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in White Oak, Maryland, U.S., August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

WASHINGTON, March 5 (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday said it will boost sampling of foods for babies and young children and increase inspections after a U.S. House of Representatives report found "dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals" in some baby foods that it said could cause neurological damage.

The FDA said it was moving ahead with a "plan aimed at reducing toxic elements in foods for babies and young children to levels as low as is reasonably achievable."

But the agency said testing shows "children are not at an immediate health risk from exposure to toxic elements in foods" and noted toxic elements are present in the environment and enter the food supply through soil, water or air.

On Thursday, a group of U.S. lawmakers urged the FDA to use "existing authority to regulate toxic heavy metal content in baby food to protect infant health and safety."

The House report urged U.S. regulators to set maximum levels of toxic heavy metals permitted in baby foods and require manufacturers to test finished products, not just ingredients, for heavy metals.

The FDA has declared that inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury are dangerous, particularly to infants and children. The FDA in August finalized guidance to industry, setting an action level of 100 parts per billion inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal.

The FDA said on Friday it plans to finalize draft guidance on reducing inorganic arsenic in apple juice and publish draft guidance that will establish action levels for lead in juices.

Baby food companies said they were working to reducing levels of metals that occur naturally in food products. (Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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