Heavy metals testing is needed more than ever, as evidenced by recent developments in the baby food industry.
In February, a Congressional investigation detailed that four leading baby food manufacturers sold products containing high levels of toxic heavy metals like arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.
All four of the heavy metals have been previously linked to cancer, chronic disease, and neurotoxic effects when exposure rises past acceptable levels. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet set minimum levels for heavy metals in most infant food, but any exposure is thought to be potentially particularly damaging for the still-developing brains of babies and infants. The FDA did set a standard of 100 parts per billion (ppb) for inorganic arsenic for infant rice cereal, which is thought to be still too lenient given the agency’s lower standard of 10 ppb of inorganic arsenic for bottled water.
Arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury are all in the World Health Organization’s top 10 chemicals of concern for infants and children. Each of the four heavy metals is also a natural element and found in the soil in which crops are grown and in theory can’t be avoided entirely. However, some regions contain high levels of the metals due in part to the overuse of metal-containing pesticides and ongoing industrial pollution.
The fallout from the investigation is only ramping up. Congress recently introduced the Baby Food Safety Act, which proposes much lower allowable levels of heavy metals (10 ppb for arsenic for instance). Multiple plaintiffs have filed class-action lawsuits in different jurisdictions around the country alleging the manufacturers violated state consumer protection statutes. In New Mexico, the state attorney general is leading the charge.
Clearly, there’s never been more emphasis on baby food producers, and those that supply them with food materials, to provide quantifiable proof of heavy metals testing. The need to demonstrate that your products are complying with heavy metal regulations will require knowledgeable, accurate, and professional testing services to ensure you’re meeting current — and with baby food — potentially new standards.
Go deeper: Learn more about how food safety testing solves numerous challenges.
Get a Full View of the Scope of Heavy Metals Testing
Heavy metals, in this context, refer to any metallic chemical element that has a relatively high density and is toxic or poisonous at low concentration levels. The most common heavy metals in this realm consist of the four previously mentioned — lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury. Other examples include chromium and thallium.
Some heavy metals — think of copper or zinc — are essential to maintain the metabolism of the human body. And heavy metals are natural components in the Earth’s crust layer. But all heavy metals cannot be degraded or destroyed. This means heavy metals tend to bioaccumulate. Since they don’t devolve, such metals increase in concentration in a biological organism over time compared to the environment. In living things, heavy metals accumulate faster than they are broken down (metabolized) or excreted.
Heavy metals can be acquired via trace amounts in the food chain, drinking water contamination, or ambient air concentrations near emission sources. With this in mind, it’s important for food manufacturers to employ heavy metals testing in all aspects of their production chain. From soil and water samples used to grow crops that go into finished products to the components of a given product, to the finished product itself.
Get a full review of everything we do. Read here for more information on all the laboratory testing services Barrow-Agee offers.
Rely on Barrow-Agee for Enhanced Testing Capabilities
Barrow-Agee Laboratories is a food testing services provider for numerous industries that performs a broad array of tests accurately and timely for its customers. Specializing in food and feed safety and quality testing, Barrow-Agee’s capabilities in being a trusted heavy metals testing partner are certified, proven, and recently upgraded with an in-house investment in developed technology.
Barrow-Agee has recently added ICP-OES equipment in order to further complement and enhance its heavy metals testing and other inorganic testing needs. ICP-OES (Inductively Coupled Plasma — Optical Emission Spectroscopy) is a technique in which the composition of elements in samples can be determined using plasma and a spectrometer. Due to its renowned reliability, multi-element options, and increased throughput, ICP-OES has become widely accepted as an industry-wide standard technique for both research and for specific analytical purposes.
The adoption of ICP-OES will also allow Barrow-Agee to conduct mercury testing without potassium permanganate, a testing reagent that is facing inconsistent supply issues. Despite the addition of the new equipment, Barrow-Agee remains firmly capable of testing for mercury according to all FSIS methodology if that is desired.
Barrow-Agee Laboratories holds numerous accreditations, certifications, and approvals with national, state, and industry-specific agencies and organizations. We maintain a comprehensive quality testing program to ensure our testing services and processes continue to meet customer expectations and regulatory compliance requirements. Barrow-Agee is ISO/IEC 17025:2017 Accredited.
Given the current focus on heavy metals in baby food, it’s essential for all food producers to explore their testing options in this area. Collaborate with a proven testing provider to discuss solutions on how to keep your products safe, and compliant with established or upcoming regulations.
Keep an eye out for other contaminants. Learn why our E. coli testing services should remain a vital component of produce production.
How to Begin With Our Heavy Metals Testing
At Barrow-Agee Laboratories, we understand you have goods to produce, customers to satisfy, and a business that needs direction — every day. Our team of experts will work quickly and efficiently to make sure your samples are tested and the results sent back to you within the stated turnaround time. We’ll help you maintain operations and make the most of your production process.