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Lawsuits Allege Autism Caused by Heavy Metals in Baby Foods

Our lawyers are investigating toxic baby food autism lawsuits.

What triggered our involvement in these cases was a congressional investigation last year that revealed that many popular brands of baby foods in the U.S. contain dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and arsenic. Scientific evidence and studies have shown that consumption of these metals during infancy and early childhood can cause neurologic damage and autism.

Product liability lawsuits are now being filed nationwide against baby food manufacturers. These baby food autism lawsuits allege that the manufacturers knowingly sold their products with unsafe levels of toxic metals and that the plaintiffs developed autism spectrum disorders from consuming them in their baby foods.

Baby Food Lawsuit Updates

March 2023: The first baby food trial is set for state court in California in less than two months.

October 2022: U.S. District Court Judge Michael S. Nachmanoff granted a motion to dismiss a consumer class action lawsuit this month.  The lawsuit claimed Gerber deceptively misled consumers to believe its baby food products were safe despite the presence of toxic metals.  This has no impact on injury lawsuits filed against Gerber claims their baby food causes autism.

June 2022: A California judge rejected an effort by the defendants in a toxic baby food lawsuit to discredit the plaintiff’s expert testimony on causation and have the case thrown out. The decision came in the case of NC v. Han Celestial, et al. (Superior Ct. of Cal., Los Angeles County. – 21STCV22822), in which the plaintiff claims his autism was caused by toxic metals in the defendants’ baby foods. The plaintiff retained 4 expert witnesses to establish that exposure to heavy metals in baby foods could contribute to autism and/or ADHD. The defendants attacked the scientific credibility of these expert opinions and moved to have all 4 expert witnesses excluded from the case. In a lengthy, well-reasoned opinion, the judge denied that motion and allowed the case to proceed. This ruling is a significant step forward for the plaintiffs in toxic baby lawsuits.

May 2022: Retail giant Walmart is increasingly involved in the toxic baby food litigation. Recently a federal judge in California ruled that plaintiffs could move forward with a proposed class action against Walmart, alleging that its Parent’s Choice brand baby food contains toxic metals. Independent lab testing by a non-profit group confirmed that Walmart brand baby food products contain toxic metals linked to autism and neurologic disorders.

Heavy Metals Are Discovered in Baby Foods

In recent years, there has been growing concern about the presence of toxic metals in baby food and the potential impact on the health of young children. Several studies have found that certain brands of baby food contain elevated levels of toxic metals, including lead, cadmium, and arsenic, which can have serious health effects.

Lead is a toxic metal that can damage the nervous system and cause developmental delays, reduced IQ, and behavioral problems. Cadmium is a carcinogen that can cause kidney damage, osteoporosis, and other health problems, while arsenic is a toxic chemical that can cause cancer, developmental delays, and other health effects.

New Baby Food Research

In response to the concerns about toxic metals in baby food, some consumer advocacy groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund and Healthy Babies Bright Futures, have conducted their own tests and called on the food industry to reduce the levels of toxic metals in baby food.  An organization called Happy Babies Bright Futures (“HBBF”), published a report in October 2019 detailing the shocking results of extensive product testing performed on 168 different baby food brands in the U.S. The testing revealed that almost all baby food products contained toxic heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, and lead. A large percentage of these baby foods products contained these metals at extremely high levels, often 100-200 times above the maximum safe levels set by the FDA.

The contaminated baby foods products with unsafe levels of these toxins included traditional spoon-fed baby foods in jars or pouches, such as carrots, mashed peas, and sweet potatoes. Other baby foods such as “puffs” and snacks made with rice flour were also included.

Congressional Report

The HBBF report prompted an investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy.  In February 2021, the Committee issued a detailed investigative report entitled Baby Foods are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury (the “Congressional Report”). The Congressional Report confirmed the results of the HBBF testing regarding the dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals in a wide range of baby foods. More than anything else, this report triggered the recent wave of baby food lawsuits.

The toxins in baby food products were often hundreds of times higher than the maximum safe levels for other products like bottled water. For instance, the FDA’s maximum safe level for lead in bottled water is 5 ppb. Some baby foods contained leads at 800 ppb – nearly 200 times the maximum limit.

What was most surprising – actually, depressing is a better word – about the Congressional Report, however, was that most baby foods companies were fully aware that their products contained toxic metals at these levels but sold them anyway.

Which Baby Foods Had the Highest Levels of Heavy Metals?

Although the Congressional Report identified toxic metals in over 150 different baby foods, a few brands had extremely high levels of these metals. These included:

baby foods with heavy metal

  • Beech-Nut brand baby foods contained lead levels as high as 886 ppb
  • Hain Celestial (Earth’s Best Organic) brands contained 641 ppb lead
  • HappyBaby (Nuture Inc.)
  • Gerber
  • Plum

The levels of heavy metals found in testing on over 150 different baby food brands and products are detailed in the Congressional Report.

Evidence Linking Consumption of Heavy Metals to Autism Spectrum Disorder

Although we do not entirely understand the exact causes of autism spectrum disorder (“autism”), recent evidence indicates very strongly that consuming certain toxic metals during infancy or early childhood can cause autism.

A series of scientific studies published over the last 10 years have consistently found a positive association between toxic heavy metals exposure (particularly during early childhood) and the development of autism.

One of the first major studies on this topic was released in 2014. This study determined that environmental exposure to mercury during early childhood resulted in a “twofold increase” in the risk of developing autism. A cohort study of children in Korea published in 2017 found a similar causal link between mercury exposure and an autism spectrum disorder.

A research team from the University of Buffalo released the results of an extensive study in 2019 on the connection between childhood exposure to arsenic and the subsequent development of autism. The researchers concluded that solid evidence supported a positive association between the consumption of inorganic arsenic in young children and autism. They observed identical results in another systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2020 by researchers at the State University of New York.

Autism Lawsuit Against Baby Food Manufacturers

The alarming results of the Congressional Report regarding the levels of toxic metals in baby foods products have sparked a growing number of product liability lawsuits against baby foods manufacturers. These lawsuits are being brought by parents who claim that their children developed autism because of consuming toxic heavy metals such as lead, mercury, or arsenic in their baby food.

One of the key allegations in these autism lawsuits is that the manufacturers knew about toxic metal levels in their products but sold them anyway. This claim is fully supported by information in the Congressional Report confirming that many baby food makers performed internal testing on their products, revealing high levels of heavy metals. According to the report, the companies simply ignore these testing results.

Another central element of these baby food autism lawsuits is the scientific evidence of the connection between autism and exposure to heavy metals. To prevail, the plaintiffs in the baby food lawsuits must establish scientific evidence of causation. To do that, they will need expert witnesses to testify that their children probably developed autism because of the heavy metals consumed in the baby food products.

Most of the complaints filed in baby food autism lawsuits so far contain a detailed description of the existing scientific support for the link between autism and heavy metal exposure during childhood. They also rely heavily on factual allegations and testing results outlined in the Congressional Report.

Summary of Some Authoritative Sources on Heavy Metals in Baby Food

  • “Arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury are toxic metals that can harm children’s health even at low levels of exposure. Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of these metals because their bodies and brains are still developing and because they consume more food per unit of body weight than adults.” (Healthy Babies Bright Futures, 2019)
  • “Alarmingly, a 2019 Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) study found that 95% of baby foods tested contain toxic chemicals, including lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury, all of which are heavy metals that can harm children’s developing brains.” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2021)
  • “A review of FDA records by the Subcommittee found that many of the products made by the seven companies, Beech-Nut, Gerber, Earth’s Best Organic, Happy Family Organics, Plum Organics, Sprout Organic Foods, and Walmart, are tainted with significant levels of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.” (U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, 2021)
  • “A recent study found that almost all baby food products sold in the United States contained at least one heavy metal such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.” (National Center for Health Research, 2021)

Call Us About Filing a Baby Food Autism Lawsuit

If your child has been diagnosed with autism and you believe it may be related to ingesting heavy metals in baby foods, you may be able to file a lawsuit and seek financial compensation. Call our product liability lawyers at 888-322-3010 or contact us online.