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

Updated on 12 October 2021 • 10 minute read
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Overview

Did you know that 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. (1)(2)

What’s disturbing is that two Congressional baby food safety reports showed that several popular baby food brands have dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals, yet the companies continue to sell them. (3)(4)

Name brands mentioned in these Subcommittee reports include Campbell Soup Company (makers of Plum Organics), Beech-Nut, and Gerber.

What’s even more alarming is that these companies actually knew that the raw materials they’re using have high heavy metal content, yet they simply adjusted their internal standards so their products will “pass.” (3)

Parents and lawmakers are now 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 refused to recall their products.

These are the only recalls that the company has issued:

 

Plum Organics Pouch Products Recall 2014

In March 2014, Plum Organics recalled the following baby food pouches for potential choking hazards: (6)

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

 

There’s no problem with the quality of these products’ contents. But a manufacturing defect may cause parts of the packages’ plastic spouts to detach. This small, plastic fragment can become a choking hazard. (6)

According to Plum Organics, the products have been shipped out to major retailers in the US, including the following:

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

 

Affected customers can reach the Plum Organics Consumer Hotline 24/7 through, including weekends, through 866-535-3774.

 

Plum Organics Pouch Products Recall 2013

In November 2013, Plum Organics recalled the following kids lines due to a manufacturing defect: (7)

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

 

Due to this defect in the pouch, the product can have a higher potential for spoilage. The company decided to recall the affected products out of an abundance of caution. (7)

Affected baby food products have the letters “AT” after the lot code or “BEST BY date.” (7)

Consumers were instructed to check for the BEST BY date range from AUGUST 5th 2014 to DECEMBER 8TH 2014. (7)

The president and co-founder of Plum Organics, Neil Grimmer, issued the following statement: (7)

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 info@plumorganics.com or call 866-495-3774 for a product replacement voucher. (7)

This product recall mostly affected Plum Organics products sold in Indiana. (7)

 

Plum Organics In 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: (3)

  • Campbell Soup Company (Plum Organics)
  • Gerber Products Company
  • Beech-Nut Nutrition Company (Beech-Nut)
  • Walmart Inc. (Parent’s Choice)
  • Nurture, Inc. (HappyBABY and Happy Family Organics)
  • Sprout Foods, Inc. (Sprout Organic Foods)
  • Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (Earth’s Best Organic)

 

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. (3)

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. (3)

 

FDA maximum limits for infant rice cereal in ppb (parts per billion): (8)

  • 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

 

Instead of complying with the regulators, baby food manufacturers created higher internal limits that allowed dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals: (3)

  • Beech-Nut (arsenic): 3,000 ppb
  • Beech-Nut (cadmium): 3,000 ppb
  • Beech-Nut (lead): 5,000 ppb
  • Nurture (arsenic): 115 ppb
  • Hain (arsenic): 200 ppb
  • Hain (lead): 200 ppb
  • Hain (cadmium): 200 ppb

 

Campbell Soup Company (Plum Organics) Results

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.” (3)

But a Healthy Babies Bright Futures report showed the following results for Plum Organics Just Sweet Potato Organic Baby Food: (9)

 

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: (10)

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. (4)

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. (4)

After the first Congressional report was released, the uncooperative baby food companies finally responded to some degree.

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. (4)

The company reported these test results for Plum Organics Super Puffs results for arsenic to the Subcommittee: (11)

  • 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. (4)

The following are the test results for lead of some Plum Organics products tested from October 2017 to September 2019: (11)

  • 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: (11)

  • 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. (11)

The company further explained: (11)

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. (12)

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.” (12)

But the company stands by its standards and plans to defend the case vigorously. (12)

Campbell is confident in the safety and quality of our products,” spokesperson Thomas Hushen said. (12)

 

Other Companies In The Congressional Report On Toxic Baby Foods

These companies were also listed on the Congressional reports: (3)(4)

 

Gerber Products Company

The company submitted test results and internal standards. But they admit to testing only the raw materials, not the finished products, for heavy metal content. (3)

 

Mercury:

  • No test for mercury.

 

Inorganic Arsenic:

  • Up to 90 ppb (for rice flour)

 

Lead:

  • Up to 48 ppb (for sweet potatoes)

 

Cadmium:

  • Over 5 ppb in carrots (75% of raw ingredients)
  • Up to 87 ppb (for some carrot batches)
  • No test for cadmium (other raw materials or ingredients)

 

Nurture, Inc. (HappyBABY And Happy Family Organics)

Unlike the other baby food manufacturers in the Congressional Report, Nurture regularly tests both ingredients and finished products for heavy metals.

But even though their finished products have high levels of heavy metals, the company continues to release them without any corrections. Nurture admits that their heavy metal test results aren’t used as the basis for product release. (3)

 

Inorganic Arsenic:

  • Up to 100 ppb (for over 25% of Nurture finished baby products)
  • Up to 160 (for Strawberry & Beet Puffs)
  • Up to 160 (for Banana & Pumpkin Puffs)
  • Up to 180 ppb (for Apple & Broccoli Puffs)

 

Mercury:

  • Up to 9.8 ppb (for Banana Sweet Potato)
  • Up to 10 ppb (for Brown Rice Cereal Canister)

 

Lead:

  • Up to 10 ppb (for Nurture vegetables and rice products)
  • Up to 560 ppb (for Multi-Grain Cereal Canister)
  • Up to 641 ppb (for Blueberry Purple Carrot)

 

Cadmium:

  • Up to 5 ppb (for 65% of Nurture products)
  • Up to 36 ppb (for Strawberry Raspberry)
  • Up to 49 ppb (for Multi-Grain Cereal Canister)

 

Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (Earth’s Best Organic)

Hain told the Subcommittee that it doesn’t test for actual heavy metal content. Instead, “theoretical calculations” are done based on the ingredients’ results. (3)

 

Inorganic Arsenic:

  • Up to 309 ppb (for ingredients)
  • Up to 129 ppb (for finished products)

 

Mercury:

  • No test for mercury.

 

Lead:

  • Up to 352 ppb (for raw materials)

 

Cadmium:

  • Up to 260 ppb (for ingredients)

 

Walmart Inc. (Parent’s Choice)

According to the Subcommittee, Walmart refused to submit results or internal standards. The following results are data from the Healthy Babies Bright Futures report: (9)

 

Inorganic Arsenic:

  • Up to 108 ppb (for Organic Strawberry Rice Rusks)
  • Up to 56.1 ppb (for Little Hearts Strawberry Yogurt Cereal Snack)

 

Mercury:

  • Up to 2.05 ppb (for Organic Strawberry Rice Rusks)
  • Up to 0.941 ppb (for Little Hearts Strawberry Yogurt Cereal Snack)

 

Lead:

  • Up to 26.9 ppb (for Organic Strawberry Rice Rusks)
  • Up to 5.2 ppb (for Little Hearts Strawberry Yogurt Cereal Snack)

 

Cadmium:

  • Up to 26.1 ppb (for Little Hearts Strawberry Yogurt Cereal Snack)
  • Up to 2.4 ppb (for Organic Strawberry Rice Rusks)

 

Sprout Foods, Inc. (Sprout Organic Foods)

The company never responded to the Subcommittee. These results for Organic Quinoa Puffs Baby Cereal Snack (Apple Kale) come from the Healthy Babies Bright Futures report: (9)

 

Inorganic Arsenic:

  • Up to 107 ppb

 

Mercury:

  • Up to 1.31 ppb

 

Lead:

  • Up to 39.3 ppb

 

Cadmium:

  • Up to 41.5 ppb

 

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. (13)

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. (4)

 

Healthier Baby Food Products

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

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

 

Preparing Healthier Alternatives At Home

Instead of worrying about unsafe baby food recalls, you can also try preparing your baby’s food at home. 

You don’t have to buy a new gadget because you can use a simple food processor or blender. But if you’re planning to get one, a Baby Brezza Small Baby Food Maker Set – Cooker and Blender can also come in handy.

The following are some of the fresh baby foods you can try preparing at home: 

  • Quality meats, fish, or poultry
  • Bone broth (preferably from organic, grass-fed cows)
  • Whole or puréed fruits and vegetables 
  • Raw yogurt
  • Eggs 
  • Quinoa 
  • Coconut yogurt 
  • Oats 
  • Healthy fats such as ghee, olive oil, or coconut oil 

 

Although sweet potatoes and carrots may have high cadmium and lead levels, they are also important sources of vitamin A and other nutrients. So, it’s still best to include these in your child’s diet, but make sure your baby only gets these in moderate amounts. (9)

But note that it might be a good idea to avoid using rice or rice flour because these products can have high cadmium, lead, and arsenic levels. (9)

 

 

REFERENCES

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

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

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

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

(5) 

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

(6) https://www.foodonline.com/doc/plum-organics-recalls-baby-food-pouches-for-potential-choking-0001

(7) https://www.wfyi.org/news/articles/plum-organics-voluntarily-recalls-pouch-products

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

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

(10)

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

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

(12)

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

(13) 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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