A global alarm on baby food has been raised following the discovery of toxic heavy metal in baby food . According to a new study released this week ,nearly all foods made for babies contain at least one toxic heavy metal that can harm brain development, The new study that tested 13 different types of baby foods, including puffs, infant formula, teething biscuits, juices, cereals, and purees.
The study was conducted by a nonprofit called Healthy Babies Bright Futures. It tested 168 containers from 61 brands for the heavy metals arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. The foods were purchased at major retail stores across the U.S. Ninety-five percent of the baby foods tested contained one or more toxic metals. About a quarter of them contained all four. Only nine of the samples tested had no toxic metals detected.
The testing involved checking 168 containers of 61 brands of 13 different types of baby food for four types of heavy metals. Arsenic was in 73% of the baby foods tested, cadmium in 75%, mercury in 32%, and lead in a whopping 94%. In fact, 26% of baby foods tested had all four of these metals, and 40% had three of them.
This is not the first analysis to find such heavy metals in baby food. For example, according to an Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) report, 20% of baby food sampled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had detectable levels of lead. This was based on an analysis of the FDA’s Total Diet Study (TDS) data from 2003 to 2013 that included 2,164 samples of baby food and 10,064 samples of other food. Lead appeared in at least one sample in 52 of the 57 types of baby food and was particularly common in fruit juices (89% of grape, 67% of mixed fruit, 55% of apple, 45% of pear) and root vegetables (86% of sweet potatoes and 45% of carrots). There was also lead in many baby cookies: 64% of arrowroot cookies and 47% teething biscuits.
Nigeria due to its population is one of the biggest markets for baby foods and formulas in the world, the rising middle class mothers are becoming increasingly dependent on baby foods and formula due to their inability to breast feed their babies due to tight schedules at work place. Available data shows that , in Nigeria, 97% of mothers breastfeed, but only 22% of women breastfeed exclusively for the first three months and only 17% breastfeed exclusively for six months. This rate varies across the geopolitical zones with the lowest rate in the North West at 10% and highest rate in the South West at 39%. The rates in other regions are South East 18%, North East 22%, South South 31%, and North Central 32%.
Top on the findings of factors that cause this is that women in the workplace often did not have enough maternal protection from their employers. There are also factors of hormonal challenges, lack of family support, societal influence, influence of extended families and social status. This brings to the fore the question of maternity leave: Should maternity leave be six months on national scale?.
Breast milk contains the entire nutrient that an infant needs for the first six months of life. It also contains antibodies that help the baby fight off infection. Breastfeeding lowers the baby’s risk to allergies such as asthma. Babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of their lives have lower risk of respiratory infection, sudden infant death syndrome and fewer bouts of diarrhea. Breastfeeding also protect the babies from adult on set of chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes mellitus. Breastfeeding also reduces ill health in children, improves their educational potential and probably their earnings as adults.
The benefits of breastfeeding for the mother include protection against breast and ovarian cancers, against hip fracture later in life and postmenopausal cardiovascular disease (the longer mothers breastfeed, the greater their protection against breast and ovarian cancer, and hip fractures). For this, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed for up to two years and beyond with addition of complementary foods from the 6th month.
Exclusive breastfeeding also helps to bring about bonding of baby and mother and helps delays a new pregnancy. It also boosts the child’s Intelligent Quotient (IQ) and lowers his or her tendency of developing into a violent adult.
Nigeria has been a dumping ground for baby food and formulas for years largely due to smuggling and other anti economic activities of saboteurs. This has led to a situation where the nation’s health regulators are unable to track the number of baby foods products or the sources from which they emanate. NAFDAC and other agencies charged with safeguarding the nation’s health must a matter of urgency take measures to eliminate unwholesome baby food and related products from the market in other to safeguard the health of the little ones in our lives and once again restore the confidence of millions of mothers and families who daily rely on these products to support their children after the exclusive period of breast feeding . See: Updated List Of Banned Drugs, Food and Cosmetics In Nigeria