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A trio of US lawmakers have introduced plans for fresh regulations on the presence of heavy metals in baby food.

The bill, unveiled yesterday (25 March) and due to be formally tabled today, sets maximum levels on the amounts of inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury allowed to be present in baby food. If passed, manufacturers would have a year to comply. The bill would require those new levels to be lowered further within two years through guidance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and again after three years through regulation.

Raja Krishnamoorthi, one of four US legislators set to table the bill, said: “For too long, industry has been allowed to self-regulate baby food safety, and the results have been appalling and extremely harmful to our kids. The Baby Food Safety Act will protect our little ones by setting strict limits on toxic heavy metals in baby foods.”

Last month, Krishnamoorthi issued a report asserting baby food on sale in the US is “tainted with dangerous levels” of arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead.

Under the proposed rules, baby food could contain no more than ten parts per billion of inorganic arsenic, or 15 parts per billion for cereal products for infants. The maximum amounts of lead and cadmium allowed would be five parts per billion for baby food and ten parts per billion for cereal products. No more than two parts per billion of mercury would be allowed in baby food and cereal.

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A spokesperson for Nestle-owned Gerber, one of the baby-food companies operating in the US featured in Krishnamoorthi's report, said it was reviewing the proposed legislation and added: "We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with our nation's leaders and the FDA to make the food supply even safer for infants and toddlers.

"At Gerber, the health and nutrition of babies is our priority. We want to reassure parents that our foods are safe for baby. Heavy metals are naturally found in water and soil and can become a part of certain fruits, vegetables and grains as they grow. This is true whether a parent buys them in the grocery store or at their local farmer's market. Gerber takes many steps to reduce the levels of heavy metals in our foods including rotating crops according to best available science, and testing produce, water, ingredients and our foods throughout the process to ensure we are delivering on our promise to deliver high-quality and safe baby food. We remain committed to reducing the levels of heavy metals in our foods as low as possible."