Posted on: February 23rd, 2023

(Originally posted on our parent company’s website – Mérieux NutriSciences)

As you might have heard, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. is working to reduce exposure to environmental contaminants in food and beverage products. The Closer to Zero campaign focuses on baby and young children’s food products, and the four main contaminants are arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. These four contaminants, also called heavy metals or toxic elements, are found naturally. Exposure to higher levels can cause health risks, especially in younger children as their immune systems are not yet fully developed.

This initiative is going to evaluate the common foods eaten by infants and young children, such as dairy-based infant formula, soy-based infant formula, meat-based baby foods, and vegetable-based baby foods. In addition, the agency will also look into heavy metals exposure in fruits and cereals. After an intense scientific study, as well as consultation with stakeholders, the FDA will implement action levels. These action levels are what the FDA considers achievable by industry to minimize the presence of heavy metals. Upon finalizing these action levels, a timeframe will be established for assessment of the industry in meeting these standards.

The first Draft Guidance of this initiative was released in late January 2023 and is centered around lead levels. The final version will not be worked on until later this year. The tentative action levels for lead in the following foods are:

  • 10 parts per billion (ppb) for fruits, vegetables (excluding single-ingredient root vegetables), mixtures (including grain and meat-based mixtures), yogurts, custards/puddings, and single-ingredient meats
  • 20 ppb for root vegetables (single ingredient)
  • 20 ppb for dry infant cereals

While we await the official Draft Guidances for arsenic, cadmium, and mercury, the forthcoming action levels have been known for some time, thus Mérieux NutriSciences has already implemented an update to meet these guidelines. Using Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) testing, our chemists have successfully lowered our detection limits for the four heavy metals.

Arsenic Cadmium Lead Mercury
10 ppb 1 ppb 5 ppb 2 ppb

Detection limits for the ICP-MS testing method for heavy metals.

Although the initial reason for updating our internal methodology was to meet the coming Closer to Zero action levels, our method capability can cover nearly all food and beverage products, with some restrictions on a matrix-to-matrix basis.

Contact Merieux NutriSciences today for any questions relating to the Closer to Zero campaign or how we can help you!

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