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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 9 April, 2003, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
Baby food mercury concern
Fish counter
Certain types of fish have high mercury levels
Parents are being reassured about mercury levels in baby foods despite reports suggesting high levels have been found.

A recent analysis of foods found a quarter of samples contained mercury, which on average was double that when baby food was last analysed three years ago.

But experts say it is not yet possible to say if these levels are too high.

Breastfeeding mothers and pregnant women have already been warned to limit their intake of fish such as shark, swordfish and tuna because of the risk of damaging the baby's nervous system as it develops.

Mercury is a contaminant. No one can stop it getting into food
Food Standards Agency spokeswoman
But the Food Standards Agency said these restrictions did not apply to baby foods.

The Committee on Toxicity in Foods, which advises the agency, will look at the survey results and issue its recommendations next week.

Factors such as whether it uses European or much lower American recommendations on mercury levels will affect its recommendations.

Consumption

A spokeswoman for the FSA told BBC News Online the concern over mercury levels was linked to fears it could affect the development of the baby's nervous system while it was in the womb or being breastfed, rather than when the baby was old enough to eat baby food

She said the COT recommendations would look at how much mercury-containing food babies eat.

She added parents would not be able to eradicate mercury from their children's diet.

"Mercury is a contaminant. No one can stop it getting into food.

"The COT will need to assess whether babies young enough to be eating baby food are a high-risk group.

"Then they will need to look at what measure, and what calculation could be used to measure levels of consumption."

All these factors will influence the COT's decision, she said.

Arsenic

Eating fish is regarded as the main source of mercury exposure. But only seven of the 180 samples of baby foods examined contained fish.

The COT will also consider whether levels of zinc, nickel and arsenic in babies' food are safe.




SEE ALSO:
Warning over fish mercury levels
28 Nov 02  |  Health
Early diet 'crucial for babies'
28 Mar 03  |  Health


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