Baby Nutrition

Consumer Reports: High Lead Levels In Some Children’s Snacks (2024)

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consumer reports: high lead levels in some children's snacks



Recent tests by Consumer Reports showed that four popular children’s snacks made by ‘cleaner’ food companies, Lesser Evil and Serenity Kids, may have high lead levels. (1)

Lil’ Puffs Intergalactic Voyager Veggie Blend by Lesser Evil contained the highest lead level of any of the 80 baby food products the consumer group has tested since 2017. (1)

In contrast, Once Upon A Farm products tested by Consumer Reports showed the lowest lead levels. (1)

Both Lesser Evil and Serenity Kids stand behind the safety of their veggie puff products. They explained that they test for lead and other heavy metals in raw materials and finished products. (1)

Still, in response to the report, Lesser Evil announced they would phase out using cassava flour from their Lil’ Puffs product line. (1)

Considering that many parents turn to veggie puffs as go-to snacks, Consumer Reports expressed alarm that these products might expose many kids to higher levels of certain metals. This could be especially true if the affected products are over-consumed.  (1)

Which children’s snacks did the group test, and what were the results? Are these food items still safe for your kids to eat, and are there healthier snack alternatives? What can you do to reduce your children’s risks of lead exposure from food, and what are these companies doing to keep kids safe?

Continue reading to learn more.


Does Baby Food Have High Levels Of Lead?

Yes, many might. The 2018 tests made by Consumer Reports and the 2019 tests conducted by Healthy Babies Bright Futures showed that as many as 95% of commercial baby foods may have high levels of heavy metals, including lead. (2)(3)

These test results led to a Congressional probe of major baby food companies. Read about the 2021 congressional report in our baby food recall article.

Follow-up tests by Consumer Reports in 2023 showed that many baby foods still have heavy metals in “concerning levels,” particularly arsenic, lead, and cadmium. (3)

For the 2024 tests, however, the consumer advocacy group only tested vegetable puffs. The group explained that they made the tests after learning about high lead levels in cassava (an ingredient used in these products) from Lead Safe Mama owner Tamara Rubin. (1)

Lead Safe Mama helps parents identify possible lead exposure sources to prevent lead poisoning. (1)

According to Consumer Reports, they tested six children’s snacks for heavy metals, taking samples of the following: (1)

  • Two cassava-based puffs from Lesser Evil
  • Two cassava-based puffs from Serenity Kids
  • Two sorghum-based puffs from Once Upon A Farm


We’ll discuss the results below.


Consumer Reports: 2024 Test Results For Veggie Puffs

According to Consumer Reports, all the tested products had detectable levels of arsenic and cadmium, and one contained mercury. Thankfully, these levels weren’t high enough to pose significant health risks to children. (1)

However, the tests showed that the cassava-based products contained high lead levels. (1)


Which Veggie Puffs Have The Highest Lead Content?

The two veggie puffs from Lesser Evil showed the highest lead content among the tested products: (1)

  • Lil’ Puffs Intergalactic Voyager Veggie Blend had as much as 112% of California’s MADL (maximum allowable dose level)
  • Lil’ Puffs Sweet Potato Apple Asteroid had as much as 60% of the MADL


The results were expressed in California’s MADL because there aren’t any federal regulations on lead in most food products. Consumer Reports explains that California’s standards are “the most protective available.” (1)

The consumer rights group expressed concern over Lil’ Puffs Intergalactic Voyager Veggie Blend’s extremely high lead levels. The product has, by far, the highest lead levels they’ve ever tested in baby and toddler foods. (1)


Do Serenity Puffs Have Lead?

Yes, some veggie puffs made by Serenity Kids contain high levels of lead, based on the 2024 tests conducted by Consumer Reports (they didn’t test the other products): (1)

  • The Tomato & Herbs with Bone Broth flavor had as much as 53% of the MADL
  • The Carrot & Beet had 17% of the MADL


Does Sorghum Have Lead?

The 2024 tests by Consumer Reports showed that the sorghum-based Organic Fruit & Veggie Puffs by Once Upon A Farm had the lowest lead levels of all the tested products: (1)

  • The Apple, Sweet Potato, & Coconut flavor contained 6% of the MADL
  • The Mango, Carrot, & Coconut had the lowest content at just 3% of the MADL


Keeping Your Kids Safe From These Veggie Puff Products

Consumer Reports’ head of food safety testing, James E. Rogers, PhD, explains that although the products may contain high lead levels, there’s no cause for alarm or panic(1)

He said that these are but a “fraction” of the levels in the apple cinnamon fruit pouches in the Wanabana recall. (1)

However, the results are still a cause for concern, especially because exposure to high lead levels can increase children’s risks for autism, lower IQ, and ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). (1)(4)

Dr. Rogers recommends minimizing the amount of food products with higher lead levels from your child’s diet. He added that kids can also get lead from other sources, including water or the environment. These different lead sources can add up. (1)

Consumer Reports has the following serving recommendations based on the test results: 

(source: (1)
(source: (1)


We recommend reducing your child’s intake of these affected products and increasing the intake of whole foods in their diet. 

University of Rhode Island nutrition professor Maya Vadiveloo, PhD, recommends choosing foods that are known to be low in heavy metals, including the following: (1)


However, you don’t have to eliminate root vegetables from your child’s diet completely. Carrots, fresh cassava, sweet potatoes, and even rice may have higher heavy metal levels but also provide essential nutrients. You can serve them in smaller amounts and rotate or mix them with other vegetables. (1)(5)(6)

Dr. Vadiveloo also recommends minimizing packaged baby snacks, including cookies, teething biscuits, rice crisps, snack bars, and other highly processed foods. Processed fruit juices must also be avoided. (1)



Is Serenity Kids Third-Party Tested?

Yes. Serenity Kids received the Clean Label Project Purity Award after partnering with the nonprofit consumer protection group Clean Label Project. The third-party tester checks for 200+ contaminants, including heavy metals, agrochemicals (pesticides), plastics, glyphosate, and other toxins. (7)


Are Once Upon A Farm & Lesser Evil Also Third-Party Tested?

Yes. Like Serenity Kids, Once Upon A Farm and Lesser Evil are also third-party tested by the Clean Label Project. (8)(9)


Why Does Cassava Flour Have High Lead Levels?

Cassava flour is made from cassava tubers (the root part). Like other root vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets, cassava can contain higher lead levels because heavy metals found in soil often stay in the roots instead of moving to other plant parts. (1)

Sadly, processing the tubers into flour can increase the lead content because it gets more concentrated than fresh cassava. (1)

In contrast, sorghum is a grain. So, it may be less prone to higher heavy metal levels than root vegetables. (1)


Responses From The Companies

Statement from Serenity Kids: (10)

“Our puffs are and have always been safe for consumption. All of our products test well below the Maximum Allowable Dose Levels (MADLs) established by California Proposition 65.” 

“We have always addressed lead and all heavy metals head on because we are confident in the safety of our products and ingredients, and because we believe that our products are healthier than the alternatives that exist today.”


Here’s a statement from Lesser Evil: (10)

“Lesser Evil was built on a mission to create better, cleaner, more natural products than the highly processed and refined snacks that overtook grocery store shelves for years.”

“All meet GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) standards and federal regulations for organic products. We conduct extensive testing for all Lesser Evil products that complies with California Prop 65 and federal standards.”


Lesser Evil explained that they retested their products after Consumer Reports tagged them for having the highest lead levels. They found that the products still meet the safety standards. However, they decided to phase out using cassava flour to reduce any risks. (11)

Once Upon a Farm explained that they specifically avoided rice or cassava because they’re known for their heavy metal content. Instead, they picked sorghum: (10)

It starts with product design. Sourcing strategies become the second pillar in heavy metal controls.















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