Rudy’s blood lead levels, determined during a routine test last summer, were at one point nearly six times the minimum risk threshold.
“Rudy’s lead poisoning brought on many emotions: shock, anger, anger, guilt, frustration, fear, worry, and uncertainty about the future,” his mother Sarah Callahan said Wednesday as he sat in his father’s lap. He spoke to the lawmakers while looking at his son sleeping in the house. “As a parent, your instinct is to always want to protect your child and keep them safe.”
The proposal before lawmakers would require manufacturers of baby food sold in Maryland to test for toxic heavy metals, and comes as the FDA works to set voluntary standards for lead, arsenic and cadmium. It’s part of a state-level effort to regulate food for children under age. And mercury. The plan, called ‘Closer to Zero’, was announced after a 2021 parliamentary report on toxic heavy metals in baby food raised awareness of the issue.
The only pushback early in the legislative process came from industry representatives who proposed changes to testing protocols and questioned the state-by-state approach.
This bill was proposed by Delsu. Deni Taveras (D-Prince George’s) and Cheryl E. Pasteur (D-Baltimore County); Starting next year, manufacturers will be required to test finished products monthly for lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury, and by 2026 they will be required to print test results on labels or print a QR code that links to the results online. It will be done.
The law, which mirrors one passed in California and took effect this year, would subject manufacturers who don’t comply to fines of up to $50,000 for each violation. Indiana and Pennsylvania are also considering bills related to heavy metals in baby food, said Jennifer Schultz of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Reports about Rudy prompted Taveras’ chief of staff, Jason Nunez, father of a 10-year-old child, to push for the bill.
Taveras, a chemist who worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and enforced federal regulations for mercury and other heavy metals, understands the potentially dire consequences of exposure, especially for young children. He said he was there.
In 2019, the child advocacy group Healthy Babies Bright Futures found that, based on tests it commissioned, the vast majority of infant and toddler foods tested were found to be detectably harmful to children. published a report showing that it contains high levels of heavy metals.
“This is an absolutely essential step to ensure the safety of baby food on store shelves,” Jane Houlihan, research director at Healthy Babies Bright Futures, said in a phone interview Thursday. “It’s been years since we learned that baby food is ubiquitous in contamination, but the FDA still hasn’t required testing.”
Young children with lead poisoning often have no symptoms, but experts say long-term exposure to lead poisoning can cause permanent neurodevelopmental problems, and a diverse diet is key. . Sarah Darling, a pediatrician at Children’s National Hospital, said young children’s brains and bodies are developing rapidly, so exposure to heavy metals has a disproportionate effect.
“There is no safe level of heavy metal exposure for children, so we must do everything we can to protect this vulnerable age group,” she said in written testimony supporting the bill. Stated.
The Callaghans were shocked when test results after a routine doctor’s visit showed high levels of lead in Rudy’s blood. They found out about the national recall of WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree She Pouches after months of puzzling over the source and scouring the house for answers, only to come up empty.
Rudy is was diagnosed with I have a speech delay and have been seeing a specialist every two weeks for almost 6 months. The Callahan family says they live in constant fear that their son, who loves building blocks and the movie “Coco,” won’t reach developmental milestones at the same time as other children. .
As Rudy enters early childhood, the family worries that all the emotional outbursts could be a symptom of lead poisoning, which could lead to behavioral problems for some, Ricky said.・Callahan says. “A lot of times we find ourselves trying to beat ourselves up,” he said after the hearing.
Since being recalled last year, the pouches, sold under the brand names “Wannabana,” “Schnucks,” and “Weiss,” have been linked to more than 400 confirmed or suspected poisonings, the FDA said.
In a statement about the investigation released this week, the FDA said the potential source of contamination of the apple puree bags was a single milled cinnamon processor that is no longer operational.
The Callaghans are suing Wannabana in Florida state court for negligence and fraud, saying the company should have known the product contained lead, according to a complaint filed in November. claims.
Michael Ichniowski, president of the Maryland chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said in testimony in support of the state bill: This would go further than the FDA’s Closer to Zero program, which requires manufacturers to test finished products and disclose test results.
Greg Costa, senior director of national affairs for the Consumer Brands Association, said the state regulation is premature given what the FDA is considering.
Kayleigh Locklair, president of the Maryland Retail Federation, said she worked with Taveras to amend the bill to reflect California’s testing protocols. The change kept the alliance neutral on the bill, she said.
State officials said they would pay a part-time contract worker to review heavy metal test results on baby food sold in Maryland and ensure that companies publish the results. says it can cost up to $28,000 a year. If small businesses selling baby food in the state don’t test for heavy metals, the costs can be significant, the analysis said.
A Senate hearing on the bill is scheduled for later this month.