The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released an interview with Conrad Choiniere, the chair of the Toxic Elements Working Group. This workgroup of food safety experts was established about a year ago with the purpose of helping to shape what the FDA will do to protect consumers from toxic metals found in foods. These metals enter our food supply naturally, through environmental pollutants in the air, water, and soil. Once in the soil or water, the metals are absorbed into plants, which are then eaten by people or by animals that enter the food supply. The workgroup is focusing first on lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury, specifically in children’s foods since they are the most vulnerable.
A massive amount of data on contaminants and nutrients in foods is collected and analyzed as part of the group’s “Total Diet Study”. If a food is identified with relatively high levels of a heavy metal, the group looks into how those levels can be reduced and informing consumers how to protect themselves.
“Once we zero in on the problem, we can offer remedies.”
Currently, the Toxic Elements Working Group is creating a “draft guidance that sets an action-level for the presence of inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereals and apple juice.”