A new study has revealed the potential link between contaminated common foods and cancer cases in the United States.
The study by researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) found that rice, wheat, leafy green vegetables, baby foods and dark chocolates with high heavy metal concentrations are connected to the thousands of cancer cases each year. Foods contaminated with metals such as lead and cadmium were linked to cases of bladder and lung cancer. Meanwhile, arsenic was linked to 7,000 cases of skin cancer.
Cadmium – a toxic metal found in nuts, potatoes, seeds, cereal grains, spinach and dark chocolates – was linked to 6,000 cases of bladder and lung cancer and 64,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer this year. Besides these three deadly cancers, this toxic metal is also linked to prostate, renal, breast and endometrial cancers. (Related: Excessive consumption of BAD CARBS increases risk of CANCER.)
Meanwhile, the American Cancer Society (ACS) found that foods like beets, chocolate and baby food tainted with lead increase the risk of brain, bladder, breast and stomach cancers. It noted that foods contaminated with lead are mostly linked to kidney cancer – which usually affects 81,800 Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 and kills 14,890 in the same cohort every year.
The MSU researchers also found that arsenic – a toxic chemical present in baby food, seafood, rice and mushrooms – increases the risk of developing skin and bladder cancer. Additionally, arsenic contributes to heart disease and has connections to neurodevelopmental disorders, increasing the risk of infant mortality.
"Results from these studies have important implications for food safety regulations, public health policies, and consumer awareness," stated lead study author and MSU food scientist Felicia Wu.
Baby foods still contain toxic chemicals despite FDA guidance
The MSU researchers also analyzed data from different studies on humans and animals conducted between 2000 and 2023 on the effects of these toxic chemicals on heart disease, kidney failure, live toxicity and developmental delays.
For instance, the study warned that young kids exposed to lead may experience hampered brain and nervous system development, echoing guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also warned the public about high lead levels in WanaBana fruit puree pouches earlier this year after four children in North Carolina showed 'extremely high' concentrations in their blood.
About 2.5 percent of children under five may have been exposed to unsafe levels of lead, leading to slowed growth, learning difficulties, behavioral issues and problems with hearing and speech.
As a response, the researchers have called upon the FDA to enforce stricter limits on metals in food and for the food industry to adopt safer practices. In turn, the FDA has set limits for lead, arsenic and cadmium levels in different food categories. The FDA has set a limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for lead in certain fruits, vegetables and yogurt; and 20 ppb in root vegetables, including carrots, beets and potatoes.
However, Consumer Reports found that three out of 14 products are highly packed with lead, arsenic and cadmium even though the FDA has already set a recommended limit on these toxic metals.
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