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  1. Chemicals, Metals & Pesticides in Food

Metals and Your Food


Closer to Zero: Reducing Exposure to Toxic Elements from Foods  for Babies and Young Children

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) plan, Closer to Zero, identifies actions the agency will take to reduce exposure to toxic elements from foods eaten by babies and young children—to as low as possible. Learn more about FDA's Action Plan.

Metals, like other naturally occurring elements, enter our food supply through our air, water and soil. The levels found in food depend on many factors, including:

  • the levels of these elements in the air, water and soil used to grow the crops, which vary depending on factors such as natural geographical differences and past or current contamination,
  • the type of the food crop and how much “uptake” there is of specific elements from the environment, and
  • industrial, manufacturing, and agricultural processes.

In addition, some metals that are beneficial to health, such as iron, are intentionally added to certain foods, including breakfast cereals and infant formulas, to enhance their dietary benefits.

The properties of specific metals, the amount of intake, and a person’s age and developmental stage are all key factors that help determine how a metal affects individual health. Understanding the risk that harmful metals pose in our food supply is complicated by the fact that exposure to metals comes from many different foods. Combining all of the foods we eat, even low levels of harmful metals from individual food sources, can sometimes add up to a level of concern.

To help protect the safety of the food supply, the FDA monitors, tests, and sets standards for metals in foods, animal feed and in cosmetics. When the level of metals is determined to be unsafe, the FDA uses its authority to take action on a case-by-case basis.

For information on health risks, FDA regulations and guidance to industry, FDA monitoring and testing, and consumer resources please visit the arsenic, lead and mercury webpages, and Closer to Zero, our action plan to address toxic elements in foods eaten by babies and young children.

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