Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Gerber baby food at a supermarket. Photo: James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images

Significant amounts of arsenic, lead, mercury, and other toxic heavy metals are in baby food made by the largest such companies in the U.S., according to a report published Thursday by a House Oversight subcommittee.

Why it matters: Babies and children are more vulnerable to severe and neurotoxic damage by toxic heavy metals than adults. The report alleges that the FDA under the Trump administration failed to take action after learning about the increased risk of heavy metals in baby food.

  • "Exposure to these toxic heavy metals affects babies’ brain development and nervous system, it affects their behavior, permanently decreases their IQ and, if you want to boil it down to dollars, their lifetime earnings potential,” Tom Neltner, chemicals policy director for the Environmental Defense Fund, told the Washington Post.

What they found: Gerber, the No. 1 seller of baby food in the U.S., "rarely tests for mercury." Many of the company's ingredients contained cadmium, lead, and high-arsenic products, according to the report.

  • Beech-Nut, the second-highest seller in the country, routinely used high-arsenic additives and "many ingredients with high lead content." The company does not test for mercury in its food.
  • Hain Celestial, maker of Earth’s Best Organic foods, sold finished products with high levels of arsenic and typically did not test finished products. The company also used "many ingredients with high lead content" and 102 ingredients with cadmium.
  • Nurture, manufacturer of Happy Family Organics products, sold baby food with as much as 641 parts per billion (ppb) of lead. The company's testing found that its typical baby food product contained 60 ppb inorganic arsenic.

By the numbers: The FDA set the maximum limit for inorganic arsenic in bottled water at 10 ppb. Beech-Nut used ingredients after they tested as high as 913 ppb arsenic, while Hain sold baby food containing as much as 129 ppb arsenic, according to the report.

What they're saying: The committee's report accuses the manufacturers of "knowingly" selling "tainted baby food to unsuspecting parents, in spite of internal company test results showing high levels of toxic heavy metal, and without any warning labels whatsoever,” Chairman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) said in a press release. 

  • “I look forward to FDA’s careful regulation of these toxic heavy metals in baby foods, followed by strict compliance requirements and mandatory consumer labels," Krishnamoorthi said."

The FDA said in a statement that it is reviewing the report's findings and it "takes exposure to toxic elements in the food supply extremely seriously, especially when it comes to protecting the health and safety of the youngest and most vulnerable in the population."

  • “Toxic elements, like arsenic, are present in the environment and enter the food supply through soil, water or air. Because they cannot be completely removed, our goal is to reduce exposure to toxic elements in foods to the greatest extent feasible and we have been actively working on this issue using a risk-based approach to prioritize and target the agency’s efforts," the agency said.
  • “We acknowledge that there is more work to be done, but the FDA reiterates its strong commitment to continue to reduce consumer exposure to toxic elements and other contaminants from food.”

Gerber told the Post that it had not seen the report and could not comment on specific findings. Hain did not respond to the Post's requests for comment.

  • A Beech-Nut spokesperson said in a statement to Axios that the company's food is "safe and nutritious," and that the company is reviewing the report and looks forward to continue working with the FDA and Baby Food Council.
  • Happy Family Organics said in a statement that the company is "disappointed at the many inaccuracies, select data usage and tone bias" in the committee's report. "We can say with the utmost confidence that all Happy Family Organics products are safe for babies and toddlers to enjoy," the spokesperson said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with statements from Happy Family Organics and Beech-Nut.

Go deeper

Vegan food pantries become a new pandemic trend

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Heightened demand for food banks has prompted vegans to organize, soliciting donations of non-animal products and setting up distribution channels for them.

Why it matters: As the pandemic persists, the number of people who are food-insecure remains alarmingly high — and any number of them may eschew animal products.

55 mins ago - World

Olaf Scholz sworn in as German chancellor, succeeding Merkel

Incoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is sworn in by Bundestag President Bärbel Bas in Berlin today. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Social Democrat Olaf Scholz was sworn in as chancellor of Germany on Wednesday, succeeding Angela Merkel after 16 years and launching a new era of German and European politics.

Why it matters: Scholz, a center-left pragmatist who served as finance minister and vice chancellor in Merkel's last government, will lead Europe's largest economy in a coalition with the environmentalist Greens and pro-business Free Democrats.

Instagram's boss faces Congress' questions on harm to teens

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for WIRED

The head of Instagram will find himself in Congress' crosshairs for the first time Wednesday in the one area lawmakers have shown they are willing to pass tech regulations — protecting youngsters online.

Why it matters: Republicans and Democrats have found common ground in grilling tech companies on how their products harm children, especially after revelations in The Wall Street Journal about Instagram's potential harm to the mental health of teen girls.