These are comments I gave at a press conference this morning with the sponsors of the bill—Senator Klobuchar, Senator Duckworth, Representative Cardenas, and Representative Krishnamoorthi, in response to the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021:
Thank you, Chairman Krishnamoorthi, Congressman Cardenas, Senator Klobuchar, and Senator Duckworth, for inviting me to participate in today’s press conference. My name is Trisha DelloIacono, and I am the National Field and Legislative Manager for Moms Clean Air Force. We are an organization of more than one and a half million moms and dads across the country fighting to protect our children from toxic chemicals, air pollution, and the climate crisis.
As moms and advocates for our children, we are incredibly thankful to our members of Congress for spotlighting the need to address toxic metals at high levels in many baby foods. Lead. Arsenic. Cadmium. Mercury. These are not ingredients we want in our baby food. These harm our children’s health. No mother should have to worry about what she is spooning into her babies’ mouths, day after day. At the same time, we are thankful for your swift action in doing something about it. In fact, the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021 is a reassuring step in the right direction.
Our babies, who are too young to speak up for themselves, need the protection of the Baby Food Safety Act because their ability to thrive depends on it. The science is clear on this. I, for one, would sleep better at night knowing that manufacturers and the FDA might soon take some long overdue action on the issue. Baby food contamination must be stopped at every step of baby food production, from the food source to production to packaging.
As a mom to four growing children, the Baby Food Safety Act hits home. I live in Southern New Jersey with my husband and 4 children, including Josie, my youngest child who is 16 months old. Josie is a voracious eater who wants meals and snacks coming her way at all times. Some of you might relate!
Catering to my 16-month-old is a juggle, and like so many parents, I am often tempted to reach for what is most convenient in our kitchen or pantry. And who doesn’t? But these days, I am extra wary, and who wouldn’t be? I am wary knowing that we need to better define the acceptable limits for heavy metals in baby food. I am wary knowing that being an informed parent is challenged by an utter lack of guidance. This must end.
Now, it does not take a PhD in science to know that heavy metals have no place in baby food. And yet, the simple act of feeding one’s children is fraught with worry so long as baby food is contaminated with heavy metals like lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury, which undermine our children’s ability to thrive. No mother should ever have to hold up a jar and ask herself, “How safe is this baby food?” It’s why we need to take action on heavy metals in baby food. And it is why we absolutely need the Baby Food Safety Act to make it easier for parents like me to nourish their babies without unknowingly putting them at risk.
As I said earlier, this legislation hits home. It hits home in one other major way. I am no stranger to the damage toxins can do in our children. In 2012, my family was poisoned by a toxic chemical, causing my now 10-year-old, Liam, to have lifelong health impacts. And then in 2016, Liam was exposed to and again sickened by a toxin–this time, the heavy metal mercury–from exposure to it in the flooring at his school. As a parent to a child who has suffered impacts from, not one, but two toxic chemical exposures, I know to take toxics seriously–and so should all of us.
Last night as I put my older children to bed, they asked me about this hearing–why it mattered so much, what I would say and to whom. Naturally, I did my best to break down the situation in terms they might appreciate. As I reminded them, “Heavy metal might go in music, NOT baby food!” I also shared that although parenting is hard, it’s that much harder when we cannot trust the companies that sell us products.
It’s high time parents are given the protections from toxic metals that they think they already have.