CLP Infant Formula & Baby Food Test


Over 30% of infant formulas and baby foods contain lead as well as many other contaminants including arsenic, mercury, pesticides, acrylamides, according to a new study by Clean Label Project


DENVER, Oct. 25, 2017 — Lead, arsenic, mercury, BPA and acrylamide are among the contaminants found in many of the best-selling infant formulas and baby foods, according to a study released today by the Clean Label Project. All of these contaminants can be harmful to health — with many linked to brain damage, reproductive harm and cancer. The American Academy of Pediatrics had previously called for the FDA and the industry to change their standards to reflect that there is no safe level of lead. A study released by the Environmental Defense Fund in June 2017 analyzing a decade’s worth of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data found lead in 20% of baby food samples. Clean Label Project purchased infant formulas and baby foods in grocery stores across America, tested them, and found almost twice those levels.

The Clean Label Project Baby Food Study is the most comprehensive scientific investigation ever completed on the foods that impact our nation’s most vulnerable population — young children—at the most critical stage of their development. The study goes well beyond evaluating the ingredients posted on nutritional facts panels and ingredient lists to examine the impact of 130+ industrial and environmental contaminants on nearly 500 infant formulas and baby food products. In all, the organization benchmarked more than 100,000 data points and found that over 25 percent of all products tested exceeded at least one state or federal guideline for contaminants. Infant formulas and baby food samples for the study were purchased in grocery stores across America within the past six months.

The study results are now available to the public on

The Clean Label Project had products tested for contaminants including heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead), BPA/BPS, antibiotic residues, pesticide residues, mycotoxins, melamine and acrylamide. These environmental and industrial contaminants have been linked to cancer, memory loss, brain damage and reproductive harm.  There is clear scientific evidence to substantiate that even trace levels of mercury and lead can have lasting effects on the long-term health of developing brains.

The Clean Label Project also rated products according to nutritional superiority attributes including antioxidant activity and the absence of added sugar, artificial flavors and preservatives.

Study highlights:

  • Over 30 perfect of infant formulas and baby foods had detectable levels of lead
  • Over 50 percent of infant formulas contained arsenic
  • Soy-based infant formula contained on average seven times more cadmium than other formulas
  • Over 25 percent of baby food samples had detectable levels of lead
  • Over 50 percent of the products labeled “BPA free” tested positive for BPA
  • Some products labeled “certified organic” actually had higher amounts of mercury and lead than conventional baby foods, although the organic baby foods had fewer pesticides
  • Rice-based “puff” snacks had on average over 5 times as much arsenic as other baby snacks

The study also found that the five worst performing baby foods had 70% more acrylamide than in the average fast food French fry and nearly double the average acrylamide in dark roast coffee.

“All parents are faced with the same dilemma when shopping  – what food is best for my baby?” said Jackie Bowen, MPH, MS, executive director of the Clean Label Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to truth and transparency in consumer products. “They are flooded with marketing terms like ‘natural,’ ‘organic’ and ‘pure,’ all intended to sell comfort and security to parents. The products that we tested are literally the exact same products that are currently in refrigerators and pantries across America.”

“The FDA-mandated ingredient deck and nutrition table on packaging does little to communicate the true quality and purity of the product and ingredients inside,” she continued. “Clean Label Project looks beyond the ingredient deck, nutrition label and flashy marketing to evaluate true product quality based on testing and science. If America’s leading pediatricians are calling for industry and the FDA to ensure that all baby foods to be ‘unleaded’ why are we seeing lead nearly 40% of the food we feed infants and babies?”

Infant formula and baby food contaminants can result from sourcing poor quality ingredients or processing ingredients improperly. “Some companies source cheap ingredients and manufacture their products in a way that maximizes profits. The result is that the consumer — in this case, babies – suffers,” said Sean Callan, PhD, director of operations and quality at Ellipse Analytics, the third-party analytical chemistry laboratory that performed the testing.


Other causes of contamination include environmental factors – such as being downstream from a farm using pesticides. “We understand that because of naturally occurring metals and the contamination of air, water and soil that no food product can be 100 percent free of unwanted contaminants, but the fewer industrial and environmental toxins and contaminants, the better,” said Bowen.


In establishing review criteria, Clean Label Project and its medical advisory board relied on current legal regulations, including those set by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

To make the findings as accessible and understandable as possible, the Clean Label Project website features a 5-star rating system that names each product tested and shows how contaminated it is compared to the other products in the study. Consumers can easily see for themselves which products are the highest and lowest rated — there is also a report card rating each brand, based on their products as a whole.

Clean Label Project encourages parents to take reasonable steps to reduce or eliminate exposure to these contaminants—because scientific studies show even low exposure to metals can have consequences. “There is a tremendous quality gradient in terms of purity between the top and bottom performing products,” noted Callan.

“We’re not telling parents to stop feeding their children the products on supermarket shelves,” concluded Clean Label Project’s Bowen. “We’re providing a resource and encouraging parents to use our research to look beyond the labels, because the difference from one product to the next could make a real impact on your child’s long-term health.”

“At the same time, we want regulators to put more specific safety requirements in place and manufacturers to be more responsible when producing food for our nation’s children.”


About Clean Label Project
Clean Label Project’s mission is to educate the public so they can make informed choices every time they shop. It accomplishes this by using scientific data to identify toxins and verify nutritional value in consumer products and sharing this information directly with consumers. Clean Label Project also believe it’s important to understand what kinds of contaminants it tests for and the potential effects, and includes education as a core initiative. Its website is