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Plum Organics Baby Food Recall 2021: Which Products Were Affected?

Updated on 21 December 2021 • 10 minute read
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Overview

Campbell Soup Company (makers of Plum Organics) is among the popular baby food brands called out in recent Congressional baby food safety reports for having dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals. (1)(2)

That’s alarming because exposure to heavy metals, even at low levels, can cause permanent damage to your child’s brain development. It may lead to behavioral problems and IQ decrease. (3)(4)

That’s why parents and lawmakers are pressuring the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to implement stricter measures to ensure that the baby food manufacturers will also test their finished products for heavy metals, not just the raw materials. (5)

How did the brands react to the Congressional reports? Did they issue recalls on the affected products and change their internal testing policies? Continue reading to find out.

 

Plum Organics Recalls

Despite being included in the two Congressional reports for having high levels of heavy metals, Plum Organics and the other brands reportedly refused to recall their products. (1)(2)

These are the only recalls that the company has issued:


Plum Organics Rice Milk Snacks Recall (2014)

In September 2014, Plum Organics issued a voluntary recall on its line of Little Crèmes organic rice milk snacks because some of the pieces might pose a choking hazard on children. (6)(7)

The Little Crèmes baby food pouches contain small, bite-sized snack pieces. They’re designed to soften in your child’s mouth within less than 20 seconds, making the pieces easier to swallow. (6)

But several customers reported that their children choked on the snack item. (6)

The company immediately recalled the affected products. They explained that the snack items were designed to soften quickly. But they only found out later that some of the pieces take much longer than expected, creating a choking hazard, especially for babies and very young children. (6)

This baby food recall affects all lots or batches of these Little Crèmes varieties: (7)

  • Super Purples (acai, blackberry & purple carrot)
  • Super Reds (pomegranate, beet & berry)
  • Super Greens (kale, apple & sweet potato)

 

The following are the affected products with these details: (7)

 

Baby Little Crèmes Sweet Potato Kale Apple – 8ct

  • Item number: 1559
  • Selling unit UPC: 846675000330
  • Case UPC: 846675001559
  • Best by date codes: 05AUG14 to BB 12AUG15

 

Baby Little Crèmes Blackberry Acai – 8ct

  • Item number: 1542
  • Selling unit UPC: 846675000347
  • Case UPC: 846675001542
  • Best by dates codes: 05AUG14 to BB 12AUG15

 

Baby Little Crèmes Beet Berry Pomegranate – 8ct

  • Item number: 1535
  • Selling unit UPC: 846675000323
  • Case UPC: 846675001535
  • Best by date codes: 05AUG14 to BB 12AUG15

 

According to the recall advisory, these products shouldn’t be consumed and must be disposed of immediately. These recalled products have been shipped to online retailers, groceries, and specialty stores across the United States. (7)

Plum Organics assured affected consumers that the products had been sufficiently tested before being released to the public. (7)

They promised to investigate the matter and find a way to improve their products before releasing them to consumers. (7)

But company spokesperson Anna Burr said that they aren’t planning to continue making Little Cremes. (7)

No other Plum Organics products were affected by this recall. (7)

If you bought these products, you may contact the company for reimbursement through the Plum Organics Consumer Hotline at 866-535-3774. It’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (7)

You may also send your concerns regarding the recall or other questions to [email protected]plumorganics.com. (7)

 

Plum Organics Pouch Products Recall (2014)

Following complaints from 14 customers that they received products with damaged spouts in March 2014,  Plum Organics recalled two baby food pouches for potential choking hazards.

A manufacturing defect may cause parts of the packages’ plastic spouts to detach. This small, plastic fragment can become a choking hazard for babies. (8)

Plum Organics clarified that there was no problem with the quality of these products’ affected contents. (8)

The company found manufacturing damage to the rim, which caused a depression to this spot. Some of the products may also have some small, loose pieces of plastic materials attached to damaged portions. (8)

These products are pureed foods intended for infants who are six months old and older. No other batch of baby food flavors was included in this product safety issue. (8)

The following lots of Plum Organics baby food pouches were included in this recall: (8)

  • World Baby Italy (Zucchini & Spinach with Pasta Marinara), with a BB or “Best By” date code of “09Sep14.”
  • World Baby Thailand (Roasted Pumpkin & Coconut Rice), with a BB or “Best By” date code of “10Sep14.”

 

Approximately 12,000 cases of the products have been shipped out to major store outlets and retailers  in the US, including the following: (8)

  • Ralph’s
  • Walgreens
  • Albertsons
  • Amazon
  • Babies R Us
  • Target
  • Safeway
  • Whole Foods
  • HEB
  • Kroger

 

According to the advisory, the recalled products have been sold online and in brick-and-mortar stores. (8)

The baby food pouches may include a specially designed spoon, but babies can also suck the food directly from the bag through a plastic spout. (8)

This spout is designed to stay on the plastic pouch while your baby is eating, but the manufacturing may cause it to become detached. Though it’s small, this plastic spout can pose a choking hazard to your baby. (8)

According to the company, there have been no injuries or serious medical concerns reported regarding this issue. But they reportedly recalled these products out of an abundance of caution for your baby’s safety. (8)

If you’re unsure whether your product is included in the recall, make sure to check the lot code and expiration date found at the back of the packaging. (8)

You may also physically inspect the spout area. If there’s a visible depression around the rim or if you find fragments of the plastic material, don’t feed the pouch to your baby. (8)

You can reach the Plum Organics Consumer Hotline 24/7, including weekends, through 866-535-3774 to process your reimbursement or ask about other baby food safety concerns. (8)

 

Plum Organics Pouch Products Recall 2013

In November 2013, Plum Organics recalled the following kids lines due to a manufacturing defect that may cause spoilage and possible bacterial infection: (9)

  • Tots Mish Mash
  • Baby Stage 2
  • Kids pouch products

 

The spoilage might cause the contaminated pouch to swell. The company decided to recall the affected products out of an abundance of caution. (9)

You’re advised not to feed your child with any recalled products because these could cause serious health risks and may lead to:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Stomachache
  • Bloating
  • Gas

 

Seek immediate medical attention if your child becomes lethargic as a result of ingesting any of these recalled baby foods.

The affected baby food products have the letters “AT” after the lot code or “BEST BY date.” (9)

Make sure to check if your product has the following BEST BY date range listed on the pack: AUGUST 5th 2014 to DECEMBER 8TH 2014. (9)

The president and co-founder of Plum Organics, Neil Grimmer, issued the following statement: (9)

As a father of two, I know how it feels to want nothing but the very best for our kids and yours. Over the years, Plum has worked hard to earn the trust of parents, and we fully intend on maintaining that trust. We are taking every action to ensure that our highest standards are being met.

Affected customers were asked to message [email protected]plumorganics.com or call 866-495-3774 for a product replacement voucher. (9)

This product recall mostly affected Plum Organics products sold in Indiana. (9)

 

Plum Organics In The Congressional Report On Toxic Baby Foods

First Subcommittee Congressional Report

Last February 2021, a detailed Congressional Report on toxic products by the US Congress Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy showed that several baby food manufacturers aren’t doing anything about the high levels of toxic elements in their products.

The Subcommittee asked the following brands for product testing results and their internal policies on heavy metals: (1)

 

Of these seven baby food manufacturers, only Gerber, Beech-Nut, Nurture, and Hain provided the Subcommittee with what they were asked for. But even then, the Subcommittee expressed alarm that these companies knew that their products contained heavy metals. (1)

The baby food manufacturers created internal standards with increased limits for their products or raw materials to pass. So, their tests showed that their products passed. But in reality, their results are several times higher than the maximum allowable levels set by the FDA for food. (1)

 

FDA maximum limits for infant rice cereal in ppb (parts per billion): (10)

  • 100 ppb inorganic arsenic

 

FDA maximum limits for bottled water: 

  • 10 ppb inorganic arsenic
  • 5 ppb cadmium
  • 5 ppb lead

 

EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) maximum limits for drinking water (may also apply to food):

  • 2 ppb mercury

 

Does Plum Organics Have Heavy Metals?

According to the Subcommittee, Plum Organics refused to submit their internal standards or actual test results. Instead, the company insisted that their finished products “meet criteria.” (1)

But a Healthy Babies Bright Futures report showed the following results for Plum Organics Just Sweet Potato Organic Baby Food: (11)

 

Mercury:

  • Less than 0.142 ppb

 

Inorganic Arsenic:

  • Up to 3.1 ppb

 

Lead:

  • Up to 5.6 ppb (exceeds the 5-ppb limit)

 

Cadmium:

  • Up to 2.3 ppb

 

In response to the Congressional report, Campbell Soup Company issued a statement explaining that they replied quickly to the Subcommittee’s questions and never refused anything requested of them: (12)

We responded quickly to their questions … and never refused anything requested of us. We are surprised that the Committee would suggest that Campbell was less than full partners in this mission. We welcomed the opportunity to work with the Committee in 2019—and continue to do so today.

We want to assure our consumers, the Committee, and any other interested stakeholders that our products are safe. 

In our submission, we noted the unfortunate lack of a current FDA standard for heavy metals in baby food. As we told the Committee in our response, our testing showed each product was well within levels deemed acceptable by independent authorities.

 

Second Congressional Report

The Subcommittee submitted a follow-up report in September 2021, announcing that Alaska independently tested the baby food products from the report and still found dangerously high levels of inorganic arsenic. (2)

Despite Alaska’s test results, the follow-up Congressional baby food report revealed that the manufacturers failed to notify the public or recall the affected products from the market. (2)

After the first Congressional report was released, Campbell protested their inclusion in the list of companies that didn’t respond to the investigation. They also explained how they came up with their internal standards: (13)

“In the absence of a federal standard, Campbell applies criteria derived from California’s Proposition 65, the European Union, and the World Health Organization—along with general guidance from the FDA on lead not specific to baby foods—in its testing of Plum Organics’ products. 

Our testing showed each product was well within levels deemed acceptable by independent authorities.”

 

Are Plum Organics Toxic?

Plum Organics provided the Subcommittee with its test results and internal company documents. 

Though the company continues to insist that their products pass, the Subcommittee pointed out the following results:

  • Arsenic: Over 200 ppb arsenic for 100% of Plum’s Super Puff rice-based products (tested from 2017 to 2019)
  • Lead: Over 5 ppb lead for 54.5% of Plum Organics products
  • Cadmium: Over 5 ppb cadmium for 38.3% of Plum Organics products

 

Internal documents Plum Organics provided the Subcommittee showed that all products exceeded 200 ppb, with some having levels of arsenic as high as 470 ppb. (2)

The company reported these test results for Plum Organics Super Puffs results for arsenic to the Subcommittee: (13)(14)

  • Apple with spinach (testing date 10/28/2017) – 201 ppb
  • Mango with sweet potato (testing date 10/28/2017) – 222 ppb
  • Blueberry with purple sweet potato (testing date 10/28/2017) – 218 ppb
  • Strawberry with beet (testing date 10/29/2017) – 228 ppb
  • Apple with spinach ( testing date 03/16/2018, sample 1) – 243 ppb
  • Apple with spinach ( testing date 03/16/2018, sample 2) – 462 ppb
  • Apple with spinach ( testing date 03/16/2018, sample 3) – 384 ppb
  • Blueberry with purple sweet potato (testing date 03/16/2018, sample 1) – 245 ppb
  • Blueberry with purple sweet potato (testing date 03/16/2018, sample 2) – 277 ppb
  • Blueberry with purple sweet potato (testing date 03/16/2018, sample 3) – 422 ppb
  • Blueberry with purple sweet potato (testing date 03/16/2018, sample 4) – 389 ppb
  • Blueberry with purple sweet potato (testing date 03/16/2018, sample 5) – 470 ppb
  • Mango with sweet potato (testing date 03/16/2018, sample 1) – 456 ppb
  • Mango with sweet potato (testing date 03/16/2018, sample 2) – 388 ppb
  • Strawberry with beet (testing date 03/16/2018, sample 1) – 217 ppb
  • Strawberry with beet (testing date 03/16/2018, sample 2) – 468 ppb
  • Strawberry with beet (testing date 03/16/2018, sample 3) – 410 ppb
  • Strawberry with beet (testing date 03/16/2018, sample 4) – 225 ppb

 

Plum also told the Subcommittee that it initially tests for total arsenic. But “where total ppb is less than the more stringent FDA standard of 100 ppb, we do not speciate.” It means that they don’t test inorganic arsenic content if the total arsenic levels are high. (2)

Does Plum Organics have lead?

The following are the test results for lead of some Plum Organics products tested from October 2017 to September 2019: (13)(14)

  • Mighty Morning Bar Blueberry Lemon – 73 ppb
  • Super Puffs Mango with Sweet Potato – 49 ppb
  • Super Puffs Strawberry with Beet – 48 ppb
  • Mighty Sticks Apple Carrot – 43 ppb
  • Teensy Snacks Berry – 35 ppb
  • Super Puffs Apple with Spinach – 31 ppb
  • Grow Well Tummy – 31 ppb
  • Grow Well Muscle – 29 ppb
  • Little Teethers Blueberry – 29 ppb
  • Mighty Snack Bars Strawberry – 29 ppb
  • Super Puffs Blueberry with Purple Sweet Potato – 28 ppb

 

As much as 38.3% of Plum Organics products exceeded the maximum cadmium limit (5 ppb). Seven of the products have over 25 ppb of cadmium: (13)(14)

  • Mighty Nut Butter Bar Peanut Butter – 25 ppb
  • Mighty Morning Bar Apple Cinnamon – 43 ppb
  • Mighty Morning Bar Blueberry Lemon (testing date 7/20/2018) – 31 ppb
  • Mighty Morning Bar Blueberry Lemon (testing date 9/25/2019) – 29 ppb
  • Mighty Veggie Spinach, Grape, Apple & Amaranth – 26 ppb
  • Stage 2 Pumpkin, Spinach, Chickpea & Broccoli – 33 ppb
  • Little Teethers Apple with Leafy Greens – 26 ppb

 

The regulatory limit for mercury is 2 ppb (for drinking water). While most of the tested Plum Organics baby foods showed levels below 4 ppb as declared by the company, the following exceed that number:

  • Mighty Sticks Berry Beet – 6 ppb
  • Teensy Snacks Peach – 5 ppb

 

Plum Organics explained that there are no regulatory limits for mercury for these products. The company said that it doesn’t use high-risk ingredients, like shellfish. They pointed out that “acceptable limits of methyl mercury in certain seafood range from 500 ppb to 1000 ppb” under EU (European Union) regulations. (13)(14)

The company further explained: (13)(14)

WHO/JECFA (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives) has a mercury exposure limit of 2.3 ug/day for a 10 kg child. A concentration of 5 ppb and 6 ppb for mercury in product would be 0.05 and 0.06 ug for a 10 kg child, significantly below the WHO/JECFA exposure limit.

 

Class Action Against Plum Organics For Heavy Metal Content

After the first Congressional report was released, furious parents filed class-action lawsuits against the companies on the list. (15)

A lawsuit filed against Plum Organics in a federal court in Camden, New Jersey, declared that claims against the company could exceed $5 million. This lawsuit described the brand’s organic baby foods as “tainted with toxic heavy metals.” (15)

But the company stands by its standards and plans to defend the case vigorously. (15)

Campbell is confident in the safety and quality of our products,” spokesperson Thomas Hushen said. (15)

 

Reducing Heavy Metals in Baby Food Products

The US PIRG (Public Interest Research Group), Consumer Reports, and other concerned groups call for the approval of the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021. They pointed out that heavy metals can greatly affect the brain and body development of young children. (5)

The Baby Food Safety Act will require baby food manufacturers to test and disclose results to parents and regulators if passed into law. It will direct the FDA to make and implement stricter heavy metal limits for all baby foods. (5)

In response, the FDA announced its action plan called “Closer to Zero,” which aims to reduce toxic heavy metals from baby foods by lowering the allowable limits. (16)

If approved, it will lower the limit to 10 ppb in other baby foods and 15 ppb for infant cereal, as proposed by the Baby Food Safety Act. (2)

 

Healthier Baby Food Products

What is the safest baby food brand?

The following baby food products may be healthier alternatives you can pick for your baby:

  • Yumi (subscription-based)
  • Little Spoon (subscription-based)
  • Little Journey Organics 
  • Once Upon A Farm 
  • Serenity Kids 

 

REFERENCES

(1) https://oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/2021-02-04%20ECP%20Baby%20Food%20Staff%20Report.pdf

(2) https://oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/ECP%20Second%20Baby%20Food%20Report%209.29.21%20FINAL.pdf

(3) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23570911/

(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4418502/

(5) 

https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/shopping/2021/06/09/beech-nut-baby-food-recall-2021-rice-cereal-arsenic/7621243002/

(6) https://abc7news.com/emeryville-plum-organics-recall-little-cremes-organic-rice-milk-snacks/301686/

(7) https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20140905005933/en/Plum-Organics-Voluntarily-Recalls-Little-Cr%C3%A8mes-Organic-Rice-Milk-Snacks-Due-to-Potential-Choking-Hazard

(8) https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/03/plum-organics-childrens-products-recalled-for-choking-hazard/

(9) https://www.campbellsoupcompany.com/newsroom/press-releases/plum-organics-voluntarily-recalls-a-range-of-pouch-products/

(10) https://www.fda.gov/food/metals-and-your-food/arsenic-food-and-dietary-supplements

 

(11) http://www.healthybabyfood.org/sites/healthybabyfoods.org/files/2019-10/BabyFoodReport_FULLREPORT_ENGLISH_R5b.pdf

(12)

https://www.campbellsoupcompany.com/newsroom/news/our-statement-on-the-committee-on-oversight-and-reforms-baby-food-report/

(13) https://www.plumorganics.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/2021.02.25-Campbell-Plum-Organics-Response..pdf

(14) https://oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/Plum%20Organics%20Test%20Results.pdf

(15)

https://www.courierpostonline.com/story/news/2021/02/12/campbell-soup-plum-baby-foodheavy-metal-smid/6730565002/

(16) https://www.fda.gov/food/cfsan-constituent-updates/fda-shares-action-plan-reducing-exposure-toxic-elements-foods-babies-and-young-children

 

 

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