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US food body responds to lead in food allegations

By Rory Harrington , 18-Jun-2010
Last updated on 18-Jun-2010 at 13:46 GMT

Product safety and adherence to best manufacturing practices are top priorities for food companies, said a leading US industry body in response to allegations that higher-than permitted-levels of lead have been discovered in a range of foods and drinks for children and babies.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) was reacting to charges made by the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) that its tests had detected lead in apple juice, grape juice, packaged pears and peaches – including baby food – and fruit cocktail.

The US legal public interest body said it had filed notices under California’s Proposition 65 Toxic Right to Know law against 49 companies. It alleges that some 125 products had lead levels above the Proposition 65 limit of 0.5 micrograms of the substance per serving.

GMA response

But the GMA countered by saying lead occurs naturally in the environment which means finding trace levels of the substance in plant-based foods is unavoidable.

Following the report from ELF, FoodProductionDaily.com contacted the GMA to ask for the reaction of its member to the accusations and whether any would contest the Proposition 65 violation allegations.

The industry group issued a statement saying: “Many minerals, including lead, exist naturally in soil and water. As a result, there are trace levels of naturally occurring lead in plant-based foods. Food and beverage companies all adhere to strict manufacturing practices to assure that there is no lead added in the cultivation and processing of foods and to keep the presence of even naturally occurring lead in any product to an absolute minimum.”

Food companies are also subject to scrutiny from the US regulators. The Food and Drug Administration monitors the food supply for contaminants, such as lead, and takes corrective action, said the GMA.

However, the body declined to comment further when asked to directly address the ELF charge that some 125 of the products had more than the 0.5 microgram per serving of lead permitted under Californian law.

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