Arsenic In Baby Food

May 10, 2018
The Honorable Debbie Stabenow
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510-2204

Dear Senator Stabenow,

We are Grade 10 students of the Berrien County Mathematics and Science Center at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI. Our chemistry teacher, Dr. Desmond Murray required each student to identify and research an important concern and write a well-sourced, scientifically sound essay and create a persuasive public science announcement about it. One of us, Kadin Mills, looked into the eye-opening topic of arsenic in baby food. Our teacher encouraged and helped us to write our elected representatives in Washington to inform and urge for action on this serious concern regarding the dangers of arsenic and other harmful toxins and carcinogens in baby food.

Our research indicates that arsenic levels in rice, a major food consumed by infants, are a federally unregulated issue that puts innocent infants and all consumers at significant risk. Research conducted and reported by The Clean Label Project (CLP) indicates that baby food, including rice and rice products, contains carcinogens such as cadmium, lead, acrylamide, bisphenol A (BPA), and mercury, in addition to arsenic.

In 2017, the Environmental Defense Fund found that of 2,164 samples of baby food, 20% tested positive for lead. In addition, CLP found that 10% of products tested positive for acrylamide, 58% for cadmium, and 60% for BPA. Arsenic was found in 80% of infant formulas and 65% of other baby food products. Compared to the FDA’s suggestion of 100 ppb of arsenic in baby food; samples tested positive for up to 600 ppb of arsenic.

It is well known that neurotoxins, such as lead and arsenic, can lead to developmental delays in infants and young children. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that:
Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Babies and young children … may also be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead … or lead-contaminated soil … A pregnant woman’s exposure to lead from these sources is [also] of particular concern because it can result in exposure to her developing baby.

The same is true for arsenic which is absorbed by rice from soil exposed to pesticides and other reckless industrial and agricultural practices here in the United States. The EPA requires, under the Safety Drinking Water Act, arsenic in water to be at or below 10 parts per billion.  Since arsenic is regulated in water for the safety of  U.S. citizens, you’d assume that regulations for arsenic in food exists as well. Unfortunately, that is not the case. In fact, despite calls for action by researchers from Consumer Reports and Dartmouth’s Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center, the government has made little advancement regarding arsenic regulation and monitoring in our food supply.

We believe that a lack of government involvement in regulating and monitoring arsenic levels during the production, processing and marketing of rice and rice products, of which 85% is grown here in the United States, contributes to its negative health effects on babies and developing children.

So, we request the following actions from you and your Congressional colleagues:
(1) Propose and vote for bills that protect babies, families and the general public from dangerous levels of arsenic in our food supply,

(2) H.R. 1029: Pesticide Registration Imp
rovement Extension Act of 2017, which is currently pending in the senate,

(3) Improve enforcement of already existing regulations on pesticides and inadequate agricultural practices that endanger our food supply, and

(4) Create public pressure and incentives for our food sector, from farmers to processors, to develop and improve technologies for arsenic identification and removal from their products.

Thank you, Senator Stabenow, on behalf of all of the students of the Berrien County Mathematics and Science Center, for taking the time to read and consider this urgent issue.

The MSC Class of 2020