SAN FRANCISCO — A California judge tentatively ruled this week that some baby foods carrying small amounts of lead do not have to display warning labels.
While both sides in the argument acknowledged the foods and juices contained lead, Judge Steven Brick said in a tentative ruling this week that manufacturers Gerber, Smucker’s, Dole, and more than a dozen others are not required to place the warnings under California law.
The manufacturers “have shown that each of their products is below the regulatory ‘safe harbor’ exposure level, and for that reason, no warnings are required,” Brick wrote.
A final ruling is expected in the next few weeks.
The Environmental Law Foundation had asserted in a lawsuit that the makers of the baby foods — including carrots, peaches, pears and sweet potatoes — and packaged fruit and fruit juice are selling products containing lead at levels that require warning labels under California Proposition 65.
Lawyers for the food companies say the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tested products targeted in the lawsuit and decided levels were below the federal standards that require a warning.
State law says a person can be exposed to up to 15 micrograms of lead daily without being at risk for cancer and up to 0.5 micrograms daily without risk of reproductive harm, according to the Chronicle.
Lead exposure can damage a child’s developing brain and lead to a lower IQ. Overall, lead poisoning in the U.S. has declined significantly since it was removed from paints and gasoline formulas.
Still, more than 500,000 U.S. children are believed to have lead poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Old paint, contaminated drinking water and soil tainted by old leaded gasoline are primary sources of lead exposure for children in the U.S., the CDC reported. Some specialists describe children as having lead poisoning only when high levels of lead are present. Others use the term more broadly to describe any child with levels that can impact intelligence or cause other harm.