Although it won’t come as a surprise, the packaged food industry has let us down again… but this time, your child’s health could be at risk.
After a thorough study, the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) recently confirmed the presence of lead
in a number of children’s snacks and drinks. This toxic chemical has a nasty track record of making its way into consumer products, from paint to toys, but this could be one of the most alarming instances of contamination ever exposed.
ELF tested 400 samples from 150 branded products, including a variety of juice boxes, packaged fruits and even baby foods. A startling 85%
of the products tested positive for lead, and in large enough amounts to cause legitimate health and legal concern. In accordance with California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, ELF filed a Notice of Violation against a number of companies for failure to warn consumers about the toxic content of their products.
The Act, otherwise known as Proposition 65, states that “No person in the course of doing business shall knowingly and intentionally expose any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without first giving clear and reasonable warning to such individual…” Lead is specifically listed in the Proposition as a known human carcinogen and reproductive toxin. By failing to uncover or acknowledge the presence of lead in their products, the accused companies may now be found guilty of irresponsible business practices. The underlying message: know what is in your products before you put them on the shelves. This is particularly
critical when the products are marketed to children.
In a press release by ELF, a toxicologist confirms that children are more at risk when it comes to lead exposure because their bodies absorb the chemical at a higher rate than adults. Even minimal exposure can stunt mental development and lead to a low I.Q. As with most carcinogens, the greatest threat is that the chemical may cause cancer.
What’s even more disturbing about these test results is that some of the accused companies were Certified Organic brands; Earth’s Best Organic, 365 Every Day Value Organic, Trader Joe’s and Walnut Acres all had products that tested positive for lead. These are names that had been approved by the USDA, bearing the seal that consumers have come to trust as a symbol of health and safety. We might look upon these cases as a few bad apples in an otherwise decent batch, but this also could be an indication that the USDA needs to tighten up their federal regulations in regards to organic labeling.
Among the other offenders are Welch’s, Gerber, Dole, Del Monte, Great Value, Minute Maid and Mott’s. According to the Notice of Violation, companies will now have 60 days to comply with state regulations, either by cleaning up their products or putting a warning label on all packages that may contain lead. If they don’t make the cut, the companies will face a lawsuit by ELF.
Certainly, these companies deserve a hefty fine for their gross oversight, but will an expensive ‘slap on the wrist’ really deter these industry giants? It seems like a small price to pay for such a dangerous violation. What’s more, shouldn’t we be discomforted by the fact that a little paper warning label is the only thing that has to stand between us and toxic food? Carcinogenic chemicals should have no place in our food products, label or not, and federal regulations should support this standard.
This is just another strong reminder that we must be conscious consumers and advocates of our own health. For the full list of affected products, view the case on the Environmental Law Foundation