Answers to Questions About Heavy Metals

woman and toddler boy walking in green field looking at plants

Updated April 2024

Quick Summary

Heavy metals have been a big topic of conversation and concern for parents and caregivers, baby food makers and regulators in recent years. We want you and your parents and caregivers to understand our process and standards, because we know how important safety is for your patients.

For more than 90 years, baby food has been our only business. We’ve safely fed Gerber baby foods to millions of babies, including our own. As the leading baby food maker in the U.S., we have robust standards for quality—and we promise to never settle for anything less than the most nutritious and safe food for your baby.

Consistent with our mission, we have always set strong standards—continuously challenging ourselves, our suppliers, and growers to improve in how we grow, source, and test our ingredients – all while continuing to make food that is nutritious for babies and healthy for the environment. That is also why we strive to minimize heavy metals to levels as low as achievable.

Find answers to your most pressing questions about what Gerber is doing to minimize the presence of heavy metals in the ingredients we use to make our baby food.

Is Gerber baby food safe?

Yes – we want to assure you all our foods are nutritious and safe for babies. Gerber has been dedicated to caring for babies for over 90 years and we prioritize the safety of our baby foods and have safely fed millions of babies, including our own. We devote significant time and resources to our rigorous quality control programs and safety standards to ensure parents and caregivers can trust that Gerber foods are nutritious and safe.

Where do heavy metals come from?

Heavy metals exist in the environment – fruits, vegetables and grains may absorb these elements from soil and water as they grow. This is true whether you grow foods in your own garden, buy organic at a farmer’s market, or buy packaged foods at the grocery store. Gerber Growers work to minimize the presence of heavy metals by using best-in-class practices such as soil testing, rotating crops and choosing peak harvest times. This helps ensure that the ingredients we use to produce our baby food are safe, tasty and nutritious.

What is Gerber doing to minimize the presence of heavy metals?

Though heavy metals are present in the environment and can be absorbed in soil and water, Gerber has long taken proactive steps to minimize their presence in the ingredients we use, and we are committed to continuing these efforts.

To ensure we use ingredients that meet our rigorous standards, we work with our Gerber Growers to prioritize growing locations for optimal soil conditions, approve fields before crops are planted based on soil testing, and rotate crops according to the best available science. Throughout the baby food making process, we rigorously test our produce, water, ingredients, and final products to ensure the highest quality standards are met.

Our goal is to continually reduce the presence of heavy metals in our ingredients. In addition to the farming practices we use, we’re investing in research to help inform future improvements. For example, we’re working with public land-grant universities to conduct on-farm research to identify the soil conditions and varieties of carrots and sweet potatoes that may absorb fewer heavy metals from the soil.

Are heavy metals added to baby food during the manufacturing process?

No – they are not. Fruits, vegetables and grains can absorb heavy metals from the soil as they take in the nutrients they use to grow. When we make our baby food, we not only use excellent ingredients, but we use stainless steel equipment, which does not contribute any heavy metals to our foods.

We test produce, water, ingredients, and our foods, including final products, to ensure we deliver on our promise to make high-quality baby food.

How does Gerber check and test for quality and safety?

In addition to our programs to assess and select ideal ingredients, Gerber foods must pass many individual quality checks before they can be sold. When it comes to heavy metals, we test produce, water, ingredients, and our finished foods to ensure we deliver on our promise to make high-quality baby food.

All of our testing is conducted by our ISO-accredited open_in_new labs, meaning they follow international standards for analytical reliability. We also go even further by partnering with additional outside labs to refine testing methods and to ensure we use the most current, cutting-edge procedures.

In addition to all our in-house programs and testing, we have also achieved Clean Label Project open_in_new certification on many of our products. In fact, we achieved the most First 1,000 Day Promise certifications of any baby food brand – this is the most comprehensive of all certifications offered by this renowned non-profit. To achieve this certification, our foods underwent independent third-party testing for process and packaging contaminants, chemical contaminants, and heavy metals to meet the Clean Label Project’s highest quality standards.

What is Gerber’s stance on regulatory action on heavy metals?

Transparency and accountability are the foundation of our mission to further minimize the levels of heavy metals in foods eaten by infants and young children. We strongly support the FDA Closer to Zero Action Plan open_in_new, and we work collaboratively with the FDA and other stakeholders to advance more stringent regulatory standards.

All our foods consistently meet federal guidelines, state-specific regulations, and our own rigorous in-house standards. Established in alignment with the latest health and safety guidance from key regulatory and non-governmental organizations like the FDA, EPA, EFSA, and WHO, Gerber is proud to have some of the world's most rigorous standards.

Our steadfast dedication to maintaining stringent industry standards spans years and is marked by proactive initiatives to minimize naturally occurring heavy metals, including collaborating with regulators and organizations focused on this topic.

Is it safer to make my own baby food?

No – making your own baby food does not reduce the potential presence of heavy metals, as noted in a recent Healthy Babies, Bright Futures report open_in_new.

The grains and produce that might be used to make baby foods at home are grown in the ground, and therefore those foods may contain heavy metals. While the ingredients we use and our final products are both specifically tested for heavy metals, the produce you buy at the store may not be.

According to the FDA, “For parents who choose to make their own baby foods, it is important to know that this is not likely to reduce potential exposure to toxic elements in baby foods and may instead result in higher concentrations.” As explained by the FDA, food manufacturers have the capability to implement strategies that result in using ingredients with lower concentrations of toxic elements.” You can read the FDA’s full advice on this topic here open_in_new.

I saw a video that showed a magnet pulling small metal shavings out of infant cereal. Are these heavy metals?

We have seen the viral videos, too! Those shavings are electrolytic iron, which is not a heavy metal. In fact, iron is an essential nutrient that plays an important role in brain development. The iron can be pulled to a magnet and appear like small dark hairs that may even clump together. Some cereals are fortified with a different type of iron that, while also safe and effective, does not react in the same way.

Iron-fortified infant cereal is not only perfectly safe, but also an important source of iron and many other nutrients in a baby's diet. Having enough iron is important for a baby’s healthy brain development and learning, which is why some varieties of our cereals are fortified with iron to help meet your baby's daily iron needs. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that infant cereal can help meet baby's dietary need for iron—learn more here open_in_new. Furthermore, having adequate iron in a baby’s diet may also have a protective function against the negative effects of toxic heavy metals, according to the FDA open_in_new.

I saw that certain ingredients are more likely to absorb heavy metals from soil. Should I stop feeding my baby certain foods like sweet potatoes, carrots and rice cereal?

No, there is no need to eliminate certain foods from a child’s diet. As nutrition experts (including those at the FDA) will attest, eliminating nutritious foods from a child’s diet to avoid heavy metals may result in inadequate intakes of certain nutrients. Instead, it is important to encourage parents to serve a variety of fruits, vegetables and grains to their child. This helps to ensure children are getting the nutrients they need, while minimizing exposure to heavy metals from any one food. You can read more about this advice here open_in_new.

If you have questions about dietary advice for young children, our Registered Dietitians are also available to help answer your questions – see our contact us information here open_in_new.

How can I minimize exposure to heavy metals in my baby's diet?

According to nutrition experts, including those at the FDA, feeding a variety of age-appropriate, nutrient dense foods—fruit, vegetables and whole grains—is the best way to help lower the risk of exposure to heavy metals.

In addition, parents and caregivers should include foods in their baby’s diet that are rich in iron and zinc—both of these nutrients are essential to a child’s development. Having an adequate intake of iron and zinc may also help block absorption of heavy metals. Parents can include iron- and zinc-fortified infant cereals and baby foods containing meat in their child's diet to help ensure adequate intake.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can review the FDA’s latest guidance here open_in_new. Additional info to help educate parents is here open_in_new.