Maryland legislators seek mandatory testing for baby foods

Maryland’s new bill is swiftly advancing through committees, aiming to mandate testing of baby food for toxic heavy metals following a multistate recall, with proposed penalties for noncompliance and a stricter disclosure requirement compared to California’s law.

Cindy Hazen, Contributing writer

March 1, 2024

2 Min Read
baby food

At a Glance

  • Maryland is considering a bill to mandate testing of baby food for heavy metals (lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury).
  • If passed, the bill would require manufacturers to publicly disclose test results starting in 2026.
  • The proposed legislation includes penalties for manufacturers if toxic metals are found in their products.

Legislation in Maryland is on a fast track to mandate testing of baby food. Since the bill’s introduction to the House on Jan. 31, 2024, HB0097 is quickly moving through subcommittees in the Senate and the House. It was heard in the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 29.

There is little opposition following a multistate recall of lead- and chromium-tainted cinnamon applesauce. As of the latest update on Feb. 27, CDC has received reports of 468 cases from 44 states. On Feb. 29, FDA said in an email that their leading hypothesis is the presence of lead chromate in the cinnamon was likely an act of economically motivated adulteration. Meanwhile, a coalition of 20 state attorneys general is pressuring FDA to issue guidance on finished product testing for lead and other heavy metals in baby food products.

Maryland State Delegate Deni Taveras, who introduced HB0097, believes there’s a lack of urgency in testing baby food. She was moved by the story of a 15-month-old child in her state who experienced lead poisoning.

“We were able to speak with his family and give them peace of mind that we are actually working on this issue so that their child is never hurt again in this way,” she said. “I do believe we have a general consensus on the bill. We’re just alleviating minimal questions that members have and looking to address whatever questions folks have regarding the bill, but the stakeholders are fairly in agreement with the current draft of the bill, as amended.”

If enacted, beginning Jan. 1, 2025, HB0097 will require manufacturers of food for babies and children under 2 years old to test a sample of the finished product for lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury.

Also, the name and level of each toxic heavy metal must be provided to the public beginning on Jan. 1, 2026, either by including the results on the product label or by publishing the results on the manufacturer’s website linked to a QR code on the product label. Additionally, the manufacturer must provide a link to FDA’s website that provides the most guidance about the health effects of toxic heavy metals.

The bill proposed in Maryland echoes a bill signed into California law in October 2023. Full disclosure of test results on the manufacturer’s website, accessed by a QR code, goes into effect Jan. 1, 2025. Currently, test results must be available to the state on request.

Taveras explained HB0097 goes a step further than California’s law by imposing a financial penalty if toxic metals are found. “If it’s deliberately added to the food, they would get up to $50,000 in violation after an investigation,” she said. “And if it’s not intentional — they followed everything, but it was naturally occurring chemicals — it would be up to $25,000 in violation, regardless. The point is that they need to ensure that they’re providing safe food for children.”

About the Author(s)

Cindy Hazen

Contributing writer

Cindy Hazen has more than 25 years of experience developing seasonings, dry blends, beverages and more. Today, when not writing or consulting, she expands her knowledge of food safety as a food safety officer for a Memphis-based produce distributor.

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