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Sprout Baby Food Recall 2021: Everything You Need To Know 

Updated on 12 October 2021 • 10 minute read
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Overview

Did you know that, according to a study, most American babies are fed with commercial baby foods? But as much as 95% of baby foods contain dangerous levels of heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic? (1)(2)

What’s so alarming about this is that even low concentrations of heavy metals can harm your child’s body and brain development. It can lead to IQ decline and behavioral issues. (3)(4)

The February 2021 Congressional Report on baby food safety called out these popular baby food companies for making products with high levels of heavy metals: (5)

 

The Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy of the House of Representatives revealed that these companies knew about their ingredients or baby foods containing toxic contaminants. (5)

Instead of making corrections, they simply increased the maximum levels of their internal limits several times higher than government regulations. So, the tainted products are still being sold to unsuspecting customers. (5)

How did companies like Sprout Foods, Inc. react to the Congressional Report? Is there any Sprout Baby Food recall issued afterward? Have there been any other Sprout products recalled in the past? Find out more below. (6)

 

Sprout Baby Food Recalls

The Congressional Report showed that Sprout Foods, Inc. (Sprout Organic Foods) and the other companies released baby foods containing high levels of toxic metals. But none issued a relevant baby food safety warning or recall. (7)

Sprout Foods, Inc. was also included in the list of manufacturers with dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals in separate tests done by Consumer Reports (2018) and HBBF (Healthy Babies Bright Futures, 2019).

But the company hasn’t recalled any product concerning any of these baby food safety reports. (2)(6)(7)

 

Sprout Baby Food In Congressional Reports

First Subcommittee Congressional Report

The Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy of the House of Representatives released a detailed baby food safety report over the high heavy metal content on products made by popular manufacturers in February 2021. (5)

Headed by Chairman Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Subcommittee asked these baby food companies to submit internal policies and test results on heavy metals: (5)

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

 

Only four baby food makers sent their test results and internal policies for the first Congressional Report: (5)

  • Gerber
  • Beech-Nut
  • Nurture
  • Hain

 

Campbell Soup Company (Plum Organics) was only able to provide these data in the second Congressional Report. But the rest, Walmart and Sprout, still didn’t update the Subcommittee with their internal policies. (7)

According to the first Congressional Report, these baby food manufacturers have dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals that exceeded government regulations several times. (5)

To ensure their products pass, the companies reportedly increased the maximum limits in their internal policies. (5)

For example, the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) set these maximum limits, in ppb (parts per billion), for bottled water: (8)

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

 

Instead of following the limits, these baby food makers increased their internal limits to much higher levels: (5)

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

 

Also, the maximum limit for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal is 100 ppb

But these companies set their internal maximum limits to these: (5)(8)

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

 

The maximum limit for drinking water (but may also apply to food) is 2 ppb mercury, according to EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) guidelines. (9)

 

Sprout Foods, Inc. (Sprout Organic Baby Foods)

According to the Subcommittee, Sprout Foods, Inc. never responded. So, these test results for Organic Quinoa Puffs Baby Cereal Snack (flavor: Apple Kale) are from the HBBF report: (2)(5)

 

Inorganic Arsenic:

  • Up to 107 ppb

 

Mercury:

  • Up to 1.31 ppb

 

Lead:

  • Up to 39.3 ppb

 

Cadmium:

  • Up to 41.5 ppb

 

Other Companies In The Congressional Reports

Aside from Sprout Foods, Inc., these baby food makers were also listed on the Congressional reports: (5)(7)

 

Nurture, Inc. (HappyBABYHappy Family Organics, and HappyTOTS)

Nurture is the only baby food maker that tested both its ingredients and finished products for heavy metal content. (5)

Yet the results were alarming, with many of its food products having high levels of toxic heavy metals. (5)

It turns out that Nurture doesn’t correct the products despite the test results. The company told the Subcommittee that the results aren’t used as a basis for product release. (5)

These are the toxic metal test results from Nurture, Inc.: (5)

 

Inorganic Arsenic:

  • Up to 100 ppb – over 25% of Nurture baby products
  • Up to 160 ppb – Strawberry & Beet Puffs
  • Up to 160 ppb – Banana & Pumpkin Puffs
  • Up to 180 ppbApple & Broccoli Puffs

 

Mercury:

  • Up to 9.8 ppb – Banana Sweet Potato
  • Up to 10 ppbBrown Rice Cereal Canister

 

Lead:

  • Up to 10 ppbNurture vegetable and rice products
  • Up to 560 ppb – Multi-Grain Cereal Canister
  • Up to 641 ppb – Blueberry Purple Carrot

 

Cadmium:

  • Up to 5 ppb  – close to 65% of Nurture products
  • Up to 36 ppb – Strawberry Raspberry
  • Up to 49 ppb – Multi-Grain Cereal Canister

 

Campbell Soup Company (Plum Organics) Results

Plum Organics refused to submit internal standards or any test results, according to the Subcommittee’s first report. The company insists on its finished products “meeting criteria.” (5)

The following are test results for Plum Organics (flavor: Just Sweet Potato) from the HBBF report: (2)

 

Mercury:

  • Less than 0.142 ppb

 

Inorganic Arsenic:

  • Up to 3.1 ppb

 

Lead:

  • Up to 5.6 ppb

 

Cadmium:

  • Up to 2.3 ppb

 

The test results of Plum Organics were finally included in the second Congressional Report. But the Subcommittee was alarmed that these showed alarmingly higher levels of toxic metals compared with the HBBF data: (7)

  • Arsenic: Over 200 ppb arsenic – in 100% of Plum’s Super Puff rice-based products
  • Lead: Over 5 ppb lead – in 54.5% of Plum Organics products
  • Cadmium: Over 5 ppb cadmium – in 38.3% of Plum Organics products

 

Gerber Products Company

Gerber told the Subcommittee that it only conducts heavy metal testing in raw materials. (5)

 

Mercury:

  • No mercury test.

 

Inorganic Arsenic:

  • Up to 90 ppb – ingredient: rice flour

 

Lead:

  • Up to 48 ppb – ingredient: sweet potatoes

 

Cadmium:

  • Over 5 ppb in carrots – in 75% of raw ingredients
  • Up to 87 ppb – ingredient: carrot batches
  • No test for cadmium in other raw materials

 

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

Hain told the Subcommittee Report that it only makes “theoretical calculations” based on the ingredients’ results to estimate the heavy metal content in their finished products. (5)

 

Inorganic Arsenic:

  • Up to 309 ppb – ingredients
  • Up to 129 ppbfinished products

 

Mercury:

  • No mercury test.

 

Lead:

  • Up to 352 ppb –  raw materials

 

Cadmium:

  • Up to 260 ppb – ingredients

 

Walmart Inc. (Parent’s Choice)

Walmart didn’t submit anything to the Subcommittee. These results are from the HBBF report: (2)(5)

 

Inorganic Arsenic:

  • Up to 108 ppb – Organic Strawberry Rice Rusks
  • Up to 56.1 ppb – Little Hearts Strawberry Yogurt Cereal Snack

 

Mercury:

  • Up to 2.05 ppb – Organic Strawberry Rice Rusks
  • Up to 0.941 ppb – Little Hearts Strawberry Yogurt Cereal Snack

 

Lead:

  • Up to 26.9 ppb – Organic Strawberry Rice Rusks
  • Up to 5.2 ppb – Little Hearts Strawberry Yogurt Cereal Snack

 

Cadmium:

  • Up to 26.1 ppb – Little Hearts Strawberry Yogurt Cereal Snack
  • Up to 2.4 ppb – version: Organic Strawberry Rice Rusks

 

Beech-Nut Nutrition Company (Beech-Nut)

Beech-Nut submitted test results and declared that everything passed internal standards. But the internal maximum limits used are much higher than government regulations: (5)

 

Mercury:

  • No mercury test.

 

Inorganic Arsenic:

  • More than 300 ppb (in additives or ingredients used in different products)
  • Up to 913.4 ppb (raw materials)

 

Lead:

  • Up to 886.9 ppb (raw materials)

 

Cadmium:

  • Up to 344.55 ppb (raw materials)

 

Second Congressional Report

The Subcommittee’s new report in September 2021 shows that the companies still produce baby foods with dangerous levels of inorganic arsenic and other heavy metals. (5)(7)

None of the baby food companies issued any food safety warning nor recalled their products with toxic metal content. (7)

 

Lawsuit Against Sprouts Baby Food

Sprout Foods, Inc. faces a class suit in the state of California, USA, for “negligent, reckless, and/or intentional practice of misrepresenting and failing to fully disclose the presence of dangerous substances in its baby foods.” (10)

The class suit cites the Congressional Report as the basis, quoting the Subcommittee’s statement about commercial baby foods having significant levels of toxic heavy metals. (10)

The company also faces another lawsuit alongside Beech-Nut Nutrition Company, Campbell Soup Company, Gerber Products Company, Hain Celestial Group, Nurture, Inc, and Walmart filed in the District of Kansas, USA. (11)

The Kansas class suit argued: (11)

The greed of executives at baby food companies has caused them to engage long-running, ongoing schemes to defraud involving premium baby food

Several companies have promised and reassured parents that their baby food products are pure, natural, safe, and healthy; in reality, these products contain heavy metals that are not pure, unnatural, unsafe, and pose a major risk to babies and infants.

Sprout Foods, Inc. also faces a class-action lawsuit in New Jersey, USA, for “mislabeling” its baby foods as “organic” and “healthy” despite containing unsafe toxic metal levels. (12)

In response, the company asked the judge to dismiss this class suit, pointing to the FDA as the regulatory authority over the issue on acceptable heavy metal levels: (12)

What levels of heavy metals in baby foods are safe and acceptable, and whether it is misleading for foods containing certain levels of heavy metals to make true labeling statements about their contents, such as ‘organic,’ are questions that fall squarely within FDA’s authority to regulate both the safety and labeling of food.


HBBF Comprehensive
Food Safety Test

Independent tests of 168 baby foods from different brands commissioned by the HBBF showed the following results: (2)

  • Arsenic: 73% of tested baby foods
  • Lead: 94% of tested baby foods
  • Mercury: 32% of tested baby foods
  • Cadmium: 75% of tested baby foods

 

As much as 26% of these baby foods contain all four toxic chemicals in one container. (2)

 

Sprout Baby Food in HBBF Study

These Sprout Organic products have high toxic metal content based on the HBBF study: (2)

 

Organic Quinoa Puffs Baby Cereal Snack – Apple Kale

  • Total arsenic: 107 ppb
  • Inorganic arsenic: 47 ppb
  • Lead: 39.3 ppb
  • Cadmium: 41.5 ppb
  • Mercury: 1.31 ppb

 

Organic Crispy Chews Red Fruit Beet & Berry with Crispy Brown Rice (Toddler Fruit Snack)

 

  • Total arsenic: 19.2 ppb
  • Inorganic arsenic: (not measurable)
  • Lead: 7.7 ppb
  • Cadmium: 1.2 ppb
  • Mercury: 0.185 ppb

 

Prunes Organic Baby Food (Stage 1, starting solids)

  • Total arsenic: 3.9 ppb
  • Inorganic arsenic: (not measurable)
  • Lead: 6.1 ppb
  • Cadmium: <0.5 ppb
  • Mercury: <0.245 ppb

 

Carrot Apple Mango Organic Baby Food (Stage 2, 6 months & up)

  • Total arsenic: 6.1 ppb
  • Inorganic arsenic: (not measurable)
  • Lead: 2.1 ppb
  • Cadmium: 15.1 ppb
  • Mercury: <0.131 ppb

 

The following Sprout Baby Food products have measurable toxic heavy metal content, but the values are within government regulations: (2)

  • Garden Vegetables Brown Rice with Turkey (for 8 months & up, Stage 3)
  • Butternut Chickpea Quinoa & Dates Organic Baby Food

 

Consumer Reports Food Safety Test

Consumer Reports tested 50 baby foods for heavy metals in 2018: (6)

  • Nearly 68% of baby foods may have high levels of at least one toxic metal.
  • At least 15 baby foods can have potential health risks if eaten daily
  • Products with sweet potatoes or rice may contain higher toxic metal levels
  • Organic foods may have the same amount of heavy metals as conventional baby foods

 

Based on Consumer Reports’ tests, these products are categorized as “more concern” due to high toxic metal content. You can follow these daily serving limits: (6)

 

Sprout Organic 

  • Quinoa Puffs Baby Cereal Snack, Apple Kale (<1.5 servings)
  • Garden Vegetables Brown Rice With Turkey (<1 serving)

 

Happy Baby Organics 

  • Organic Probiotic Baby Cereal (<3 servings)
  • Organics Superfood Puffs, Apple & Broccoli (<1 serving)
  • Organics Superfood Puffs, Purple Carrot & Blueberry (<1 serving)

 

Beech-Nut 

  • Classics Sweet Potatoes (<0.5 serving)
  • Complete Rice Single Grain Baby Cereal (<3 servings)
  • Complete Oatmeal Whole Grain Baby Cereal (<2.5 servings)
  • Organic Oatmeal Whole Grain Baby Cereal (<2.5 servings)

 

Earth’s Best Organic

  • Chicken & Brown Rice (<1 serving)
  • Sunny Days Snack Bars, Strawberry (<1 serving)
  • Whole Grain Oatmeal Cereal (<2.5 servings)
  • Sweet Potatoes, 1st Stage (<0.5 serving)
  • Whole Grain Rice Cereal (<1 serving)

 

Baby Mum-Mum 

  • Banana Rice Rusks (<3 servings)
  • Vegetable Rice Rusks (3 servings)

 

Plum Organics 

  • Little Yums Organic Teething Wafers, Pumpkin & Banana (<5.5 servings)
  • Just Sweet Potato Organic Baby Food (<1 serving)
  • Mighty Sticks Whole Grain Snacks, Berry Beet (<1.5 servings)

 

Gerber 

  • Turkey & Rice (<1 serving)
  • Lil’ Meals flavor White Turkey Stew With Rice and Vegetables (<0.5 serving)
  • Carrot, Pear & Blackberry (<1 serving)
  • Carrots Peas & Corn With Lil’ Bits (<1 serving)
  • Oatmeal Single Grain Cereal (<2.5 servings)
  • Organic Oatmeal Cereal (<2.5 servings)
  • Graduates Arrowroot Cookies (<6 servings)
  • Graduates Cinnamon Graham Animal Crackers (<4.5 servings)
  • Graduates Banana Cookies (<4 servings)
  • Graduates Waffle Wheels Puffed Grain Snack, Banana Cream (<3 servings)
  • Graduates Lil’ Biscuits Vanilla Wheat (<2.5 servings)
  • Graduates Cereal Bars, Strawberry Banana (<1.5 servings)

 

Parent’s Choice (Walmart)

  • Little Puffs Cereal Snack, Strawberry Apple (<1.5 servings)

 

Healthier Baby Food Products

These can be a healthier alternative for your baby:

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

 

Preparing Healthier Alternatives At Home

The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) advises parents to provide young children with various foods to help reduce the toxic heavy metal levels in their diet. (13)

HBBF and Consumer Reports recommend the following healthier food options: (2)(6) 

 

High-Risk Food: Infant rice cereal or other snacks made from rice flour (including puffs)

Heavy Metals: Lead, arsenic, and cadmium

Healthier Alternatives: 

  • Rice-free packaged snacks
  • Multigrain snacks
  • Apples
  • Applesauce (unsweetened)
  • Bananas
  • Barley with diced vegetables
  • Beans
  • Cheese
  • Grapes
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Peaches
  • Yogurt 

 

High-Risk Food: Rice rusks or teething biscuits

Heavy Metals: Lead, arsenic, and cadmium

Healthier Alternatives: 

  • Frozen banana
  • Peeled and chilled cucumber

 

High-Risk Food: Single grain rice cereal

Heavy Metals: Arsenic

Healthier Alternatives:

  • Non-rice or multigrain cereals
  • Oatmeal
  • Corn
  • Barley
  • Quinoa

 

High-Risk Food: Fruit juices from apple, grape, pear, and others

Heavy Metals: Lead and arsenic

Healthier Alternatives: 

  • Tap water
  • Whole or puree fruits (applesauce)

 

High-Risk Food: Sweet potatoes and carrots

Heavy metals: Lead and cadmium

Healthier Alternatives: 

  • These vegetables are important in your baby’s diet because they’re rich in vitamin A and other nutrients.
  • But you still need to limit your baby’s intake of these vegetables. Serve them together with other veggies, instead.

 

You may also opt to use these ingredients to make your baby’s food at home: (7)  

  • Quality meats, poultry, or fish
  • Healthy fats (coconut oil, olive oil, or ghee)
  • Whole or puréed vegetables and fruits (avocados, apples, bananas, peaches, grapes, and strawberries)
  • Organic eggs 
  • Bone broth
  • Raw yogurt
  • Coconut yogurt 
  • Quinoa 
  • Oats 

You can also follow these guidelines: (2)(6) 

  • Avoid using brown rice (it has a higher inorganic arsenic content than white rice)
  • Healthier alternatives: White basmati rice (from California, India, and Pakistan) or sushi rice from the US
  • Prepare rice with more water (6-10 parts water per 1 part rice). Drain afterward.
  • Avoid chocolates
  • Avoid high-mercury fish: king mackerel, shark, swordfish, bigeye tuna, and orange roughy.

 

 

 

REFERENCES

(1) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29706668/

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

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

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

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

(6) https://www.consumerreports.org/food-safety/heavy-metals-in-baby-food/

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

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

(9) https://www.epa.gov/mercury/what-epa-doing-reduce-mercury-pollution-and-exposures-mercury

(10) https://classactionsreporter.com/sproutbaby-foods-heavy-metal-content-california-class-action/

(11) https://www.docketalarm.com/cases/Kansas_District_Court/2–21-cv-02096/Johnson_v._Beech-Nut_Nutrition_Company_et_al/1/

(12) https://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/baby-food-class-action-lawsuit-and-settlement-news/1029905-sproutbaby-food-co-says-fda-responsible-toxic-heavy-metal-in-bid-to-dismiss-class-action/

(13) https://www.aappublications.org/news/2021/05/01/parentplus-babyfoodmetal050121

 

 

 

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