By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Friday it will boost sampling of foods for babies and young children and increase inspections after a congressional report found "dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals" in some baby foods that it said could cause neurological damage.
The FDA stopped short of committing to issuing new regulations, however.
The agency said it was moving ahead with a "plan aimed at reducing toxic elements in foods for babies and young children to levels as low as is reasonably achievable."
But it said testing shows "children are not at an immediate health risk from exposure to toxic elements in foods" and noted toxic elements are present in the environment and can enter the food supply through soil, water or air.
The report by the U.S. House of Representatives oversight subcommittee on economic and consumer policy urged U.S. regulators to set maximum levels of toxic heavy metals permitted in baby foods and require manufacturers to test finished products, not just ingredients, for heavy metals.
Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, who chaired the panel, said lawmakers were "disappointed that FDA failed to commit to establishing concrete rules to remove toxic heavy metals from all baby foods. It highlights the need for Congress to pass legislation with strict standards and timelines."
The FDA has declared that inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury are dangerous, particularly to infants and children. The FDA in August finalized guidance to industry, setting an action level of 100 parts per billion inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal.
The FDA said on Friday it plans to finalize draft guidance on reducing inorganic arsenic in apple juice and publish draft guidance that will establish action levels for lead in juices.
Baby food companies say they are working to reducing levels of metals that occur naturally in food products.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)