The Best Organic Baby Foods (Without Heavy Metals)

36 min reading time
Today we’ll be looking at…
  • Why new information shows that baby food has toxic heavy metals.
  • How to read a baby food label & what the certifications mean.
  • How to avoid the toxic contaminants that might be lurking in baby food.
  • The problem with sugar in baby food.
  • What to look for in a good baby food.
  • Which baby foods you can actually trust.

You may have heard that high levels of toxic heavy metals have been found in baby food. It’s unfortunately true.

Recent studies have found brands—including Gerber and Plum Organics—to havedangerously high” levels of toxic chemicals like arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.

There are currently no federal safety standards for heavy metals in baby food in the USA.

Currently, baby food manufacturers are allowed to establish their own internal standards for the heavy metal content of their products. This autonomy has led many companies to set dangerously high thresholds—and even exceed them—continuing to use ingredients and sell baby food with potentially unafe levels of heavy metals.

Notably, Nurture, the company behind HappyBABY products, has revealed that it treats its internal standards as “goal thresholds” instead of strict limits.

Even more alarmingly, Nurture’s internal standard for arsenic content in its infant rice cereal products is set at 115 parts per billion (ppb), surpassing the FDA’s maximum limit of 100 ppb by 15%. This discrepancy further underscores the pressing need for stricter regulation and oversight in the infant food manufacturing industry to ensure the health and safety of our youngest consumers.

There have been several lab studies on baby food brands in the past few years, with an alarming amount of toxic heavy metals found in popular brands. For this reason, we’re diving into the world of baby food, and sharing our research on the baby food brands without heavy metals.

Our Quick Recommendation: Serenity Kids

After our full analysis, the baby food we recommend comes from the brand Serenity Kids.

They use only 100% organic ingredients, and the products are tested to ensure the safest baby food possible, without any toxic heavy metals.

Click here to see their full range of baby foods. (Use code “BETTERGOODS” for 15% off your first order!)

The Best Organic Baby Food Brands

We took a deep look at all of the organic baby food brands and the various varieties of food they offer.

#1. Serenity Kids (Our Recommended Brand)

Serenity Kids is one of the best brands of store-bought organic baby food and one we’d recommend.

The brand takes the issue of heavy metals in baby food seriously. All raw ingredients are tested for heavy metals, test the final products, and are independently tested by Clean Label Project. The brand is also outspoken about the issue of heavy metal contamination in baby food, and since the US currently has no standards for heavy metals in baby food, the brand uses the EU’s more strict guidelines.

Serenity Kids takes sourcing seriously. They go the extra mile by providing information on their website about their partner farmers. They share clear details about where their 100% organic vegetables, 100% grass-fed bison, and 100% pasture-raised turkeys come from. They even explain how these ingredients are grown or raised, showing their commitment to transparency.

Not all of their products are certified organic by the USDA but there’s a reason for it. From small family farms, the beef and pork are raised organically without GMO feed, hormones or antibiotics. Due to the prohibitive costs, these small farms can’t afford USDA certification. The wild-caught salmon can’t be certified organic because it’s not a product of agriculture.

At Serenity Kids, we carefully vet our suppliers to ensure we use the cleanest possible ingredients. We use organic vegetables that come from trusted American-family farms that conduct testing on their own soil, have robust food safety programs, and undergo the most rigorous food safety audit, SQF Level III. Meats are naturally lower in heavy metals, and we source ours from farms with the highest quality and environmental standards.

Serenity Carr, CEO of Serenity Kids

What we like about this brand is that the pouches contain a lot less sugar than most. We looked at all of the products, and at most, they contain 4g of sugar per serving (the entire 100g pouch), where many competing brands have 12g or more sugar in the same serving size.

Serenity Kids has an excellent policy where they will refund your money, no questions asked, if your child simply doesn’t like the product.

Their labeling is a little bit misleading. For example, the expensive meat pouches are labelled things like “Free Range Chicken with Organic Peas and Carrots.” But if you take a look at the nutritional information, the first ingredient is actually peas, then carrots (which are both cheap), with the free range chicken being the third ingredient.

Yes, it’s marketing, but it’s misleading marketing, especially considering the cost of the meat protein pouches.

But having said that, if you have the money, this is a great brand that we highly recommend.


Pricing on Serenity Kids baby food comes in at around $3.50 to $4 per pouch, with the proten-based pouches being slightly more expensive.

Where To Buy Serenity Kids

Serenity Kids baby food is available exclusively on their website. Click here to see their full range of baby foods. (Use code “BETTERGOODS” for 15% off your first order!)

#2. Square Baby

Square Baby is a customizable subscription-based food service tailored to the nutritional needs of your growing child. It offers nutrient-dense meals prepared in line with your baby’s age, ensuring they receive the right balance of protein, vegetables, grains, and other essentials.

All ingredients used in Square Baby foods are 100% USDA-certified organic and GMO-free, and meals are delivered frozen to your doorstep bi-weekly in reusuable and recyclable containers.

The brand uses a “veggie-first” approach, meaning every meal has more vegetables than any other food group. Many mainstream baby food brands use a lot of concentrated fruit—which comes with a lot of sugar—to sweeten the meals to make babies like them more. Since their inception, the brand has removed their fruit-only purrees and reformulated a large part of their lineup to focus on veggies.

In addition, Square Baby provides “Allergen Introduction” meals, including ingredients like fish, shellfish, peanuts, and dairy. Current research indicates that early introduction of these common allergens might aid in warding off future food allergies, making this a great way to introduce your little one to potential allergens.

Square Meals provide 100% of a baby’s nutrition, which takes the guesswork out of feeding a child.


Plans range from $99 (14 meals) to $279 (56 meals) depending on your needs, giving a range from $4.90 to $7.07 per meal. However, with our discount code (BETTERGOODS25) you can get 25% off your first order.

Where To Buy Square Baby

Square Baby is available exclusively on their website. Click here to see their full range of baby foods. (Use code “BETTERGOODS25” for 25% off your first order!)

#3. Once Upon a Farm

Once Upon a Farm is a great newer brand co-founded by Hollywood actress Jennifer Garner. They offer a wide array of excellent options for organic baby food pouches. Of course, they’re certified organic and non-GMO and made in California.

Click here to see their baby food on Amazon.

They don’t use any preservatives, and the pouches are perishable and must stay refrigerated. They’re available in grocery & retail stores across the US—including Target, Whole Foods, Kroger, Publix, BJs, and Costco. Look for them in the yogurt section.

They use HPP (cold-pressing), which uses high pressure rather than heat to prepare the product. This process helps maintain the taste, texture, and color of the product instead of shelf-stable baby food products that are heated and pasteurized, which destroys a lot of the nutritional value.


Prices are around $3.50 per 3.2oz pouch.

Where To Buy Once Upon a Farm

Once Upon a Farm is available on Amazon. Click here to see their full range of baby food.

#4. Little Spoon

Little Spoon is another newer startup that makes and delivers fresh baby food blends to your door. All of their products are made in southern California and are available only through their website.

Little Spoon offers baby food, toddler finger food, full toddler and kid meals, as well as smoothies.

The brand’s baby food—which they call Babyblends—offers an array of over 40 unique puree choices, designed to ease the transition into solid foods. These selections span from simple, single-ingredient purees to more complex, multi-texture transition meals, effectively catering to various baby food stages.

Each blend is conveniently packaged in portable containers, including a spoon, making them perfect for on-the-go feeding. What sets these blends apart is their commitment to quality and safety: each one is USDA-certified organic and non-GMO.

Meals arrive cold—not frozen—and can be kept in the fridge safely for up to 14 days, or frozen for up to three months.


Plans range from $65.50 (14 meals) to $133 (42 meals) depending on your needs—including a flat $9 per shipping per order. This gives a range of $3.17 to $4.67 per meal.

Where To Buy Little Spoon

Little Spoon baby food is available exclusively on their website. Click here to see their full range of baby foods.

Studies Have Found Unsafe Levels of Heavy Metals in Baby Food

Recently-released research has brought to light some disturbing findings about the presence of heavy metals in baby food. Although consumers may believe that there are stringent guidelines and measures in place to avoid contamination, certain studies have revealed alarmingly unsafe levels of heavy metals, such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium, in a range of products intended for infants and toddlers.

These revelations have sparked significant concern among parents, healthcare professionals, and regulatory bodies, and demand further scrutiny. This section delves into these studies, their findings, and the implications for the food industry and public health.

The Groundbreaking 2018 Study on Heavy Metals in Baby Food

In 2018, an eye-opening study was published by Consumer Reports, marking a pioneering step in uncovering the hidden reality of heavy metals in baby food.

This was the first time a comprehensive study of such magnitude was carried out. Researchers evaluated an extensive selection of 50 different baby food products from retailers nationwide, spanning various food categories. This pivotal research spotlighted a crucial issue, drawing national attention to the safety of baby food and setting the stage for ongoing scrutiny in this area.

Researchers analyzed 50 different baby food products from across the country, falling under the following categories:

  • Infant cereals;
  • Pre-packaged fruits and vegetables;
  • Pre-packaged main dishes like turkey and rice meals; and
  • Pre-packaged snacks, encompassing cookies, crackers, crunchies, puffs, snack bars, wafers, and biscuits, which include teething biscuits and rice rusks.

The organization found that every one of the 50 products tested contained detectable levels of dangerous heavy metals including including arsenic, cadmium and lead. Of the 50 samples tested, 33 of them contained “worrisome levels” of heavy metals.

The study also determined that the likelihood of organic food samples containing heavy metals was just as high as it was for non-organic products.

The products tested with unsafe levels of heavy metals include:

Meals and Entrées:

  • Earth’s Best Organic Chicken & Brown Rice
  • Earth’s Best Turkey, Red Beans & Brown Rice
  • Gerber Chicken & Rice
  • Gerber Turkey & Rice
  • Sprout Organic Baby Food Garden Vegetables Brown Rice With Turkey
  • Gerber Lil’ Meals White Turkey Stew With Rice & Vegetables1

Fruits and Vegetables:

  • Gerber Carrot, Pear & Blackberry
  • Gerber Carrots Peas & Corn With Lil’ Bits1
  • Plum Organics Just Sweet Potato Organic Baby Food
  • Beech-Nut Classics Sweet Potatoes
  • Earth’s Best Organic Sweet Potatoes, 1st Stage


  • Beech-Nut Complete Rice Single Grain Baby Cereal
  • Happy Baby Organics Organic Probiotic Baby Cereal
  • Beech-Nut Complete Oatmeal Whole Grain Baby Cereal
  • Beech-Nut Organic Oatmeal Whole Grain Baby Cereal
  • Earth’s Best Organic Whole Grain Oatmeal Cereal
  • Gerber Oatmeal Single Grain Cereal
  • Gerber Organic Oatmeal Cereal
  • Earth’s Best Organic Whole Grain Rice Cereal

Snack Foods:

  • Gerber Graduates Arrowroot Cookies
  • Plum Organics Little Yums Organic Teething Wafers, Pumpkin & Banana1
  • Gerber Graduates Cinnamon Graham Animal Crackers
  • Gerber Graduates Banana Cookies
  • Baby Mum-Mum Banana Rice Rusks
  • Baby Mum-Mum Vegetable Rice Rusks
  • Gerber Graduates Waffle Wheels Puffed Grain Snack, Banana Cream
  • Gerber Graduates Lil’ Biscuits Vanilla Wheat
  • Gerber Graduates Cereal Bars, Strawberry Banana
  • Parent’s Choice (Walmart) Little Puffs Cereal Snack, Strawberry Apple
  • Plum Organics Mighty Sticks Whole Grain Snacks, Berry Beet1
  • Sprout Organic Quinoa Puffs Baby Cereal Snack, Apple Kale
  • Earth’s Best Organic Sunny Days Snack Bars, Strawberry
  • Happy Baby Organics Superfood Puffs, Apple & Broccoli
  • Happy Baby Organics Superfood Puffs, Purple Carrot & Blueberry

The 2019 Healthy Babies Bright Futures Study

The following year, Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), in collaboration with a nationwide volunteer network of seven other nonprofit organizations, purchased baby food from various stores situated in 14 urban regions across the country.

The food was sourced from a diverse array of 15 retail chains, which included supermarkets, dollar stores, baby-specific stores, and large superstores, in addition to two retailers operating solely online. A total of 168 baby food containers were tested at independent labs including:

  • HBBF hired Brooks Applied Labs (BAL) — A lab nationally renowned for its proficiency in analyzing heavy metals. They tested the 168 baby food containers for four the four main potentially harmful heavy metals—namely arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. Furthermore, the 25 baby foods exhibiting the highest arsenic levels were also evaluated for inorganic arsenic—the form of arsenic most harmful to humans.
  • Southwest Research Institute — This lab was commissioned to analyze 25 of the same food samples for another neurotoxic contaminant—perchlorate—further emphasizing the need for comprehensive standards accounting for a broad spectrum of neurotoxins in food.

What the HHF Researchers Found Was Shocking

The results of their findings weren’t good. 95% of baby food—even organic baby food—contained one or more toxic heavy metals.

They found the following toxic metals:

  • Lead – A whopping 94% of baby food tested contained lead. Extremely toxic.
  • Cadmium – 74% of baby foods contained this metal linked with brain damage, cancer, and more.
  • Arsenic – 73% of tested baby foods contained this toxic metal with links to damage to developing brain and nervous systems.
  • Mercury – 32% contained mercury, which is linked to brain damage and worse.

The test results showed that 95% of the baby foods were contaminated with at least one of the four toxic heavy metals—arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.

Out of the 168 baby foods tested, only nine didn’t have any of these metals, and most had more than one. In fact, one out of every four foods tested had all four metals present in the same container.

An Additional Neurotoxin Was Also Found

The tests conducted by Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) led to the discovery of an additional neurotoxin in the food samples. Fresh containers of 25 of the foods that were initially tested for heavy metals were dispatched to a separate laboratory for the detection of perchlorate, a known neurotoxic pollutant.

The findings indicated the presence of perchlorate in 19 out of the 25 food samples. All 19 food samples that tested positive for perchlorate also showed traces of heavy metals, with 12 containing all four types of heavy metals initially tested.

Perchlorate is a substance that can disrupt the thyroid functions critical for brain development and has been associated with a loss of IQ in children born to mothers with thyroid dysfunction. These mothers are more susceptible to the toxicity of perchlorate. This compound has been used as a component of rocket fuel since the Cold War era.

In 2021, An Official United States Report Shook The Country

On February 4, 2021, the US Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy released a report that got the attention of the media and concerned parents across the country.

Because of the previous independent studies—especially that from HBBF—the the subcommittee was compelled to request internal documents and test results from seven of the United States’ largest baby food manufacturers.

These companies included both organic and conventional product producers:

  1. Nurture, Inc. (which markets Happy Family Organics, including HappyBABY baby food products)
  2. Beech-Nut Nutrition Company
  3. Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (which offers baby food products under the Earth’s Best Organic brand)
  4. Gerber
  5. Campbell Soup Company (which offers baby food products under the Plum Organics brand)
  6. Walmart Inc. (which markets baby food products through its private brand, Parent’s Choice)
  7. Sprout Foods, Inc.

Four of these companies—Nurture, Beech-Nut, Hain, and Gerber — complied with the Subcommittee’s request, providing information on their internal testing policies, test results for ingredients and/or finished products, and records of what was done with ingredients and/or finished products that surpassed their internal testing thresholds.

Conversely, Walmart, Campbell, and Spout Organic Foods refused to cooperate with the Subcommittee’s investigation, raising concerns that these brands may be hiding even more concerning levels of toxic heavy metals in their products.

The Results

Arsenic — All of the responding companies showed unsafe levels of arsenic.

  • Nurture (HappyBABY) — Sold products with up to 180 ppb inorganic arsenic, 25% of pre-sale tested products contained more than 100 ppb.
  • Hain (Earth’s Best Organic) — Sold finished products with a maximum of 129 ppb inorganic arsenic, using ingredients that tested as high as 309 ppb.
  • Beech-Nut — Utilized ingredients with up to 913.4 ppb arsenic, regularly using additives with over 300 ppb arsenic.
  • Gerber — Used ingredients, including 67 rice flour batches, with arsenic levels over 90 ppb.

Lead — All of the responding companies showed unsafe levels of arsenic.

  • Nurture (HappyBABY) — Sold products that tested up to 641 ppb lead, with nearly 20% of tested products exceeding 10 ppb lead.
  • Beech-Nut — Used ingredients with up to 886.9 ppb lead, many of which contained over 5 ppb, 15 ppb, and 20 ppb lead.
  • Hain (Earth’s Best Organic) — Used ingredients with a maximum of 352 ppb lead, including 88 that exceeded 20 ppb and six that surpassed 200 ppb.
  • Gerber — Used ingredients with up to 48 ppb lead, with several containing over 20 ppb lead.

Arsenic — All of the responding companies showed unsafe levels of arsenic.

  • Beech-Nut — Used 105 ingredients that tested over 20 ppb cadmium, with some reaching up to 344.55 ppb cadmium.
  • Hain (Earth’s Best Organic) — Used 102 ingredients in its baby food that tested over 20 ppb cadmium, with some reaching up to 260 ppb.
  • Nurture (HappyBABY) — Sixty-five percent of their finished baby food products contained more than 5 ppb cadmium.
  • Gerber — Seventy-five percent of Gerber’s carrots contained over 5 ppb cadmium, with some reaching up to 87 ppb cadmium.

Mercury — The only brand that tested for mercury showed unsafe levels.

  • Nurture (HappyBABY) — Sold finished baby food products containing as much as 10 ppb mercury.
  • Beech-Nut and Hain (Earth’s Best Organic) — Did not test for mercury in baby food.
  • Gerber — Rarely conducted tests for mercury in its baby foods.

Keep in mind that these are the results of the manufacturer’s own internal testing, meaning they knowingly are selling products with unsafe amounts of toxic heavy metals.

The September 29, 2021 Update

In late September of 2021, the Subcommitte released an update to their findings. Since the intial report, the companies that refused to cooperate intially did, to a certain capacity, begin to cooperate. Those three companies are Campbell, the maker of Plum Organics (Plum), Walmart, and Sprout Foods, Inc.

Some of the findings include:

  • Walmart — For six years, Walmart held an internal limit for inorganic arsenic in their finished baby foods at 23 ppb. However, in 2018, the company drastically increased this limit to 100 ppb, over four times the initial limit, significantly reducing the stringency of their safety standards for baby foods.
  • Sprout — Internal documents showed that Sprout only asked its ingredient manufacturers to conduct heavy metal analysis once per year, and never did internal testing. As per the Subcommittee, “Sprout’s testing practices appear to be the most reckless among baby food manufacturers.”
  • Plum Organics — All of Plum Organics’ Super Puff rice-based products, tested between 2017 and 2019, exceeded 200 ppb arsenic, with an average of 233.74 ppb per product. This arsenic level is well above the FDA’s allowable limit of 10 ppb in bottled water and the proposed Baby Food Safety Act limit of 15 ppb for infant cereals. Furthermore, more than half of Plum Organics’ products exceeded the 5 ppb lead limit, and nearly 40% surpassed the 5 ppb cadmium limit that the FDA permits in bottled water.

Consumer Reports 2023 Update

On June 27, 2023, Consumer Reports published an update to their initial 2018 study, revisiting the analysis of seven baby food products originally studied. While the scope of this study wasn’t as extensive as the previous one, it did provide some valuable insights.

The results weren’t great: although the detectable levels of some heavy metals have decreased, in some baby food brands, the amount of heavy metals actually increased.

Foods from Hot Kid and Gerber showed more heavy metal contamination than the previous study. The single product tested from Beech-Nut remained the same, while the three toddler snacks tested from Happy Baby Organics improved.

The FDA’s Response: 2023 Update

In early 2023, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) submitted their draft guidance for their “Closer To Zero” action plan. The goal is to create a “science-based, iterative approach to decreasing toxic elements in food, especially that intended for babies and young children. Tnitiative , including lead, in foods over time, including by setting action levels.”

The FDA has announced its Closer to Zero action plan, an initiative aimed at reducing levels of toxic elements, including lead, in food, especially those intended for babies and young children. The plan includes setting “action levels” for lead, which the FDA considers achievable by the industry with appropriate control measures. Action levels, at which the FDA may consider a food to be adulterated, are part of a broader plan that also involves additional steps to reduce lead and other toxic elements in food over time.

At the current time of writing (July 2023), the Closer to Zero action plan is still in the planning stages, and there are currently no FDA-enforced limits on dangerous heavy metals in baby food.

Avoiding the toxins in baby food.

It turns out that when it comes to baby food, the worst offenders are those that contain sweet potatoes and carrots, even if organic. Rice is also a big offender but is generally not found in puree foods – it’s mainly found in puff cereals meant for toddlers.

“Most of these metals are naturally occurring in soil, water or air. Plants absorb them as they grow, leaving trace amounts of the metals in the plants we consume.”

Evelyn Benden, RD.

Sweet potatoes and carrots are root vegetables that are very high in Vitamin A and other essential nutrients but, unfortunately, also high in lead and cadmium.

Happy Babies Bright Futures doesn’t recommend completely avoiding baby food with sweet potatoes and carrots. Instead, they recommend feeding these foods and a variety of other foods to limit exposure while still getting the benefit of these nutritious veggies.

It should only become a problem if you’re feeding your little one a diet consisting only of root veggies like carrots and sweet potatoes.

The 2021 US governmental report goes further, though. It seems as though food additives and the manufacturing process might be adding even more heavy metals to the food.

According to the report, most companies only test the ingredients used in the food, not the final product. In the case of Hain (Earth’s Best Organics), 100% of the baby foods tested had higher inorganic arsenic levels than the company estimated based on testing the individual ingredients – sometimes up to 93% higher.

Current food labeling laws don’t require manufacturers to label foods or have a warning label, either.

Brands To Avoid

Based on the 2021 baby food report by the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy on Oversight and Reform, we strongly recommend avoiding these brands:

Avoid: Walmart (Parent’s Choice), Sprout Organic Foods, and Campbell (Plum Organics).

All three of these companies refused to cooperate with the investigation.

“The Subcommittee is greatly concerned that their lack of cooperation might obscure the presence of even higher levels of toxic heavy metals in their baby food products, compared to their competitors’ products. Independent testing of Walmart, Sprout Organic Foods, and Campbell products has confirmed that their baby foods contain concerning levels of toxic heavy metals.”

Avoid: Beech-Nut

According to the report:

“Beech-Nut used ingredients after they tested as high as 913.4 ppb arsenic. Beech-Nut routinely used high-arsenic additives that tested over 300 ppb.”

“Beech-Nut used ingredients containing as much as 886.9 ppb lead. It used many ingredients with high lead content, including 483 that contained over 5 ppb lead, 89 that contained over 15 ppb lead, and 57 that contained over 20 ppb lead.”

“Beech-Nut used 105 ingredients that tested over 20 ppb cadmium. Some tested much higher, up to 344.55 ppb cadmium.”

“Beech-Nut (does) not even test for mercury in baby food.”

For these reasons, we strongly recommend avoiding Beech-Nut’s baby food.

Avoid: Nurture (HappyBABY)

According to the report:

“Nurture (HappyBABY) sold baby foods after tests showed they contained as much as 180 parts per billion (ppb) inorganic arsenic. Over 25% of the products Nurture tested before sale contained over 100 ppb inorganic arsenic. Nurture’s testing shows that the typical baby food product it sold contained 60 ppb inorganic arsenic.”

“Nurture (HappyBABY) sold finished baby food products that tested as high as 641 ppb lead. Almost 20% of the finished baby food products that Nurture tested contained over ten ppb lead.”

“Sixty-five percent of Nurture (HappyBABY) finished baby food products contained more than 5 ppb cadmium.”

“Nurture (HappyBABY) sold finished baby food products containing as much as ten ppb mercury.”

“Nurture (HappyBABY) sold all products tested, regardless of how much toxic heavy metal the baby food contained. By company policy, Nurture’s toxic heavy metal testing is not intended for consumer safety. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only finalized one standard—100 ppb inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal—and Nurture set its internal standard for that product 15% higher than the FDA limit, at 115 ppb.”

Avoid: Hain (Earth’s Best Organic)

According to the report:

“Hain (Earth’s Best Organic) sold finished baby food products containing as much as 129 ppb inorganic arsenic. Hain typically only tested its ingredients, not finished products. Documents show that Hain used ingredients testing as high as 309 ppb arsenic.”

“Hain (Earth’s Best Organic) used ingredients containing as much as 352 ppb lead. Hain used many ingredients with high lead content, including 88 that tested over 20 ppb lead and six that tested over 200 ppb lead.”

“Hain (Earth’s Best Organic) used 102 ingredients in its baby food that tested over 20 ppb cadmium. Some tested much higher, up to 260 ppb cadmium.”

“Hain (Earth’s Best Organic) set an internal standard of 200 ppb for arsenic, lead, and cadmium in some of its ingredients. But Hain exceeded its internal policies, using ingredients containing 353 ppb lead and 309 ppb arsenic. Hain justified deviations above its ingredient testing standards based on “theoretical calculations,” even after Hain admitted to FDA that its testing underestimated final product toxic heavy metal level.”

Avoid: Gerber

“Gerber used high-arsenic ingredients, using 67 batches of rice flour that had tested over 90 ppb inorganic arsenic.”

“Gerber used ingredients that tested as high as 48 ppb lead; and used many ingredients containing over 20 ppb lead.”

“Seventy-five percent of Gerber’s carrots contained cadmium in excess of 5 ppb, with some containing up to 87 ppb cadmium.”

“Gerber rarely tests for mercury in its baby foods.”

The Problems With Baby Food

Problem #1: Toxic Metals? In My Baby Food?

95% of baby food—even organic baby food—contains one or more toxic heavy metals.

This is the terrifying findings of a recent (November 2019) study by Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), an organization dedicated to reducing babies’ exposure to toxic chemicals.

They found the following toxic metals:

  • Lead – A whopping 94% of baby food tested contained lead. Extremely toxic.
  • Cadmium – 74% of baby foods contained this metal linked with brain damage, cancer, and more.
  • Arsenic – 73% of tested baby foods contained this toxic metal with links to damage to developing brain and nervous systems.
  • Mercury – 32% contained mercury, which is linked to brain damage and worse.

As scary as this sounds, you shouldn’t be alarmed. It’s easy to read information like this and start freaking out, but it’s not the end of the world, and it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t feed your child store-bought baby food.

So if even organic baby foods can contain these toxic metals, what can you do about it?

In our guide, we will identify the safe baby foods and mark those that contain high amounts of sweet potato or carrot.

But please don’t live in fear of letting your little one eat carrots and sweet potatoes. It’s fine—variety is the key!

The Dangers of Heavy Metals in Baby Food

Heavy metals—when consumed or inhaled—can have profound effects on our health, and these impacts are significantly amplified in babies. With their rapidly developing bodies and systems, young children are exceptionally vulnerable to heavy metal exposure.

Even trace amounts of these substances can lead to developmental complications in infants. Their rapidly developing cognitive systems, which are the foundation of learning, memory, and behavior, can be affected, potentially leading to future learning difficulties and behavioral changes.

What’s more, heavy metals can disrupt the normal growth and development of infants, laying the groundwork for potential health challenges as they grow. Given the potentially lasting impacts of heavy metal exposure, it’s crucial to understand these risks to better protect our youngest and most vulnerable population.

Safe Alternatives

Unfortunately, making your baby food isn’t going to avoid these heavy metals. And the standards like USDA organic certification don’t account for heavy metals, so even buying organic isn’t going to avoid it.

The following is a list of better alternatives to carrots and sweet potatoes. Since these veggies are grown above-ground, they should be safe from toxic heavy metal contamination.

However, since several of these options (like apples and pears) are high in pesticide content, they should always be bought organic when possible.

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Prunes
  • Pears
  • Butternut squash (similar nutrient profile to carrots and sweet potato)
  • Pumpkin (also has similar nutrient profile to carrots and sweet potato)
  • Peaches
  • Grapes

Problem #2: Commercial Baby Food Can Be Misleading and Unhealthy

You have to be very careful when it comes to blindly trusting baby food labeling. You might think that the industry has our children’s best interests in mind and would make the foods as healthy as possible, right?

Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

You don’t have to look very far to find baby foods full of processed ingredients and tons of sugars. Feeding your little one a diet of baby foods like this will set them up to prefer sweet foods and reject those that aren’t sweet—a recipe for a picky eater.

And what’s worse is that just because a label says it’s “spinach and beet,” if you turn the package over and look at the ingredients, you might find that it’s mainly just cheap fruit purees and juices with spinach and beet being a tiny percentage of the actual container.

It’s super important to expose our children to various tastes and textures at a young age, so they grow up to enjoy all of the different foods we have available. A child given only a diet of sweet, fruit-based foods might grow up to dislike the bitter taste of spinach and never learn to enjoy it.

Look at the label for this Gerber baby food pouch:

Ingredients include coloring, gelatin, juice concentrates (to make it sweeter), added sugars (14g of sugar!), and many ingredients you can’t even pronounce. Plus less than 1g of fiber, which is crazy considering apples and strawberries are high in fiber in their natural form.

Problem #3: Sugars

Recently, baby food has come under fire for the high levels of sugars.

These super-sugary foods and treats are setting children up to be hooked on them. A diet heavy in sugars can lead to tooth decay, obesity and other health effects.

It’s a trick. You’ll buy a baby food pouch that says it’s “spinach, kale, and apples,” but little do you know that apples are the main ingredient. Baby eats it and loves it, and you’re like, “wow, this baby food is awesome! She’s eating spinach and kale like you wouldn’t believe!” — but it’s just full of sugar, and that’s why she likes it so much.

A sneaky way companies add sugar to their baby foods is by using concentrated juices, such as pear. You might read the label and see “concentrated pear juice” and not think twice about it. Still, it’s adding a lot of unnecessary sugar.

We are giving kids a sweet tooth from an early age.

A significant side-effect of giving our kids too much sugar is giving them a taste for sweet foods, which can continue as they get older.

It’s essential to expose children to various tastes—sweet, sour, and bitter—so that they learn to enjoy them as they get older.

If we feed our children purees full of sugar, they might very well grow up to only appreciate sweet and sugary tastes.

Feed a variety of foods, not just fruits.

A lot of store-bought purees are essentially boiled and reduced fruits, making them concentrated in sugar. Often, manufacturers use fruits like banana and mango, which are naturally high in sugar, and when reduced, end up making for baby food that is very high in sugars.

You might be wondering: if it’s fruit sugar, isn’t that okay?

Unfortunately, it isn’t.

We believe that baby food should be, ideally, lower in sugar. We will indicate which foods have acceptable levels of sugar.

The Solution: A Healthy, Organic Baby Food That’s Low in Sugar

Thankfully, even with the issues outlined above, it’s still possible to find an outstanding, organic store-bought baby food that you can trust. There are no harmful, toxic chemicals, not loaded with sugars, and full of good, healthy nutrients that your little one needs.

To be sold as organic in the USA, baby food needs to be certified by the USDA. But there are three different certifications the USDA might give an “organic product.”

Let’s take a look at them.

What Do The Organic Labels on Baby Food Mean?

usda organic logo

In the US, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) controls the labeling of organic products.

A product that has the USDA logo is certified organic. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is 100% organic.

There are several certifications you’ll find on organic foods. They are as follows:

  • 100% Organic: Completely free of all chemical fertilizers, hormones, pesticides, antibiotics and genetic modification. You won’t find any baby food labeled 100% organic.
  • USDA Organic: This label can be used on any product that contains at least 95% organic ingredients. The 5% non-organic ingredients must either be unavailable commercially in organic form.
  • Made with Organic Ingredients: If a product is labelled “made with organic ingredients”, it must contain at least 70% organic ingredients.

The Non-GMO project.

non-gmo project label

For a baby food to carry the “non-GMO Project Verified” label, the company that sells the product has both:

  1. Paid a fee to the Non-GMO Project.
  2. Had their product lab-tested to insure that the product has no genetically-modified ingredients.

However, this testing isn’t perfect.

While the project does do its best, with current technologies, they can’t 100% guarantee that the ingredients haven’t been genetically modified. In reality, the label means that the product contains little GMO material, not that it’s necessarily completely free of GMO material.

The Non-GMO Project isn’t without its controversies. Many critics claim that the non-profit is preying on consumer’s fears because they will certify any product as being non-GMO even if it can’t possibly be genetically modified.

If you’re shopping for baby food at the store and one catches your eye because it says “contains no cyanide”, you might think to yourself “Wow, I had no idea that baby food could contain cyanide, I better buy this one.” But in fact, none of the baby foods contain cyanide. It’s the same idea with the non-GMO verification.

It’s the best we have right now, and I’d definitely prefer a product with the non-GMO label over one without it.

How To Find a Healthy, Organic Baby Food

Here is some helpful criteria you should follow, that we used when making our list of the best organic baby foods:

  1. Low in sugar content — Manufacturers love to put a ton of sugar in their products, so aim for those that have 8g or less sugar per serving.
  2. Avoid products that contain any ingredients that are likely to be contaminated with heavy metals — The worst offenders are those with sweet potato and carrot and we will label those that should be avoided.
  3. Go for non-fruit pouches — Veggie-based pouches are typically more nutrient-dense and have less sugars. Not only that but it helps your little one get used to the taste of actual vegetables.
  4. Beware of the labels — If a product says it’s “spinach, broccoli and apple, you have to read the label. The actual main ingredient might be just apple.
  5. Check the label — Look for “USDA Organic” on the label. This certification ensures that the food has been grown and processed according to federal guidelines addressing factors like soil quality, pest control, and the use of additives.
  6. Select brands that test for heavy metals — Some companies test each batch for heavy metals. This ensures safety and transparency.

  7. Recognizable Ingredients – Opt for foods with few additives and simple, whole food ingredients you can easily recognize.

The Benefits of Making Your Own Baby Food

We would strongly recommend making your own baby food over store-bought jars or pouches.

Here’s why:

  • It’s far cheaper. Organic baby food pouches can run as much as $5 per serving, which can really add up.
  • You know exactly what’s going into it. It’s easy to buy organic ingredients from the local grocery store, and you’re probably not going to add any preservatives, right?
  • Most baby purees are processed. Even if they’re organic, they’re still going through a process that can destroy some of the nutrients in the food.
  • You can use any food you want. There are some common ingredients in packaged baby foods. If you make your own food, you can use lesser-used ingredients, like melons or meats. A wider variety of food makes for a less picky baby!
  • Baby can eat the same food as the family. This not only makes for a bonding experience, but exposing them to a wider variety of foods can make them less of a picky eater as well.
  • Store-bought food can be high in sugar. Because of the process they use to make the purees, which often means boiling and reducing the fruit down, it ends up being more highly concentrated with sugars. Some companies even do sneaky things like add grape juice concentrate to the mixture, making it much sweeter than it should be.

If you think it’s too complex or time-consuming to make your own food, it’s not. You can spend an hour or two making food and make enough for the month.

The Dirty Dozen: Foods to Avoid

The Dirty Dozen refers to the 12 fruits and vegetables that have been found to contain the highest levels of pesticide residues through independent testing. It is recommended to buy organic versions of these foods if possible to lower your pesticide exposure.

The current list includes:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, Collard & Mustard Greens
  4. Peaches
  5. Pears
  6. Nectarines
  7. Apples
  8. Grapes
  9. Bell & Hot Peppers
  10. Cherries
  11. Blueberries
  12. Green Beans

The produce is ranked based on the total amount of pesticides detected after washing and peeling (if applicable). The list changes annually as new testing is conducted.

Buying organic versions of the Dirty Dozen is recommended for those wanting to reduce their consumption of pesticides from produce when using them in baby food. Washing and rinsing conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables can also help remove some residues.

Baby Food Safety Fundamentals for New Parents

Here are all the tips with introductions and the original tips added:

  • Wash Hands — Wash your hands thoroughly before handling any baby food, bottles, or utensils. Germs from your hands can easily contaminate the food.
  • Sanitize Surfaces — Sanitize countertops, cutting boards, blenders and any other surfaces that come in contact with baby food. You can use a sanitizing solution or just soap and hot water.
  • Refrigerate Properly — Check that refrigerated baby food is kept at 40°F or colder. If in doubt, throw it out. Don’t take risks with cold food storage.
  • Defrost Safely — Avoid defrosting frozen baby food at room temperature. Either thaw it overnight in the fridge or use the defrost setting on your microwave. Bacteria multiplies quickly at room temp.
  • Heat Thoroughly — If heating up baby food, make sure it’s steaming hot throughout. Don’t just warm it slightly. You want to ensure any bacteria is killed by thoroughly cooking it.
  • Use Clean Utensils — When using store-bought pouches, squeeze some onto a clean spoon or bowl rather than letting baby suck food directly from the pouch. Reduces contamination risk.
  • Discard Leftovers — Don’t save leftovers from baby’s plate or bowls after they have eaten. Any backwash or saliva can contaminate the food. Toss it out.
  • Refrigerate Opened Pouches — Make sure to place baby food pouches in the fridge immediately after opening, even if you don’t use all of it. Never leave them out.
  • Stir and Check — When reheating food, don’t just microwave – stir and check it to ensure there are no cold spots where bacteria could survive.
  • Check Expiry Dates — Pay attention to the expiry dates on food. Most baby foods, even the organic ones, have preservatives and are pasteurized to make them shelf stable. But you should still be careful.
  • Don’t Use Home-Canned Foods — Never feed baby any home-canned foods. These foods sometimes contain bacteria that is no problem for grown adults, but not so much for the immature immune systems of infants.
  • Label Homemade Food — If you make your own food and freeze it, make sure to label it properly. In general, fruit or veggie-based foods should be used within 3 months of freezing.
  • Travel with Refrigeration — If you’re traveling with a baby food pouch that’s opened, always keep it in a refrigerated container.

Our Quick Recommendation: Serenity Kids

After our full analysis, the baby food we recommend comes from the brand Serenity Kids.

They use only 100% organic ingredients, and the products are tested to ensure the safest baby food possible, without any toxic heavy metals.

Click here to see their full range of baby foods. (Use code “BETTERGOODS” for 15% off your first order!)

Download our free swap guide.
A cheatsheet of 50+ clean alternatives for your whole house. 
Thank you for subscribing!


  • Avatar photo

    Several of these products were on the recent report as either having high concentrations of toxic metals, or refusing to cooperate with the government study. Any considerations for adjusting this article?

  • Avatar photo

    Hi. Concerned mom here. I currently use Beechnut and have a lot in my pantry. Am I hearing this right- my best option is to throw it all out and either a) make my own or b) buy one of the expensive brands??? I have no time as it is, and money is tight. Excuse me why I go cry.

    • Avatar photo
      Staff Guide

      I wouldn’t worry too much about using the food you have now. There are trace amounts of these metals in the food, so it’s not the end of the world to use the ones you have. To be safe as possible, maybe don’t buy them anymore, or at the very least, avoid the ones that have carrot or sweet potato.

      These metals are naturally in carrot and sweet potato so even if you make your own food, they’re going to have it. The problem with the premade food is that it’s more concentrated because it’s boiled down.

      It’s definitely safer to make your own food, but I know it’s not always easy to do that all the time. I know it’s all around bad news but consider making your own if possible, it’s actually a lot cheaper too.

  • Avatar photo
    Goldie LeFlore

    This is a great detailed article. Once me and my husband found out we were pregnant, two things I already knew. We would be cloth diapering and making her food. There’s no price on making sure your child is healthy and safe. I have been buying Serenity Kids. I wonder if this research applies to other foods like the oatmeal, crackers, juices? I see you definitely have to do your research when it comes to companies just slapping labels on their products. When reading ingredients the first ingredient are the main ingredient? I don’t understand how these baby foods can still be on the shelves and companies state that they comply.

  • Avatar photo
    Rita Patel

    What are your thoughts on Cerebelly products? Their recent Forbes article indicated that their foods do not contain heavy metals, at all.

    • Avatar photo
      Staff Guide

      Hi Rita – we haven’t yet looked into the brand, but as we expand this guide we’ll look into them. Thank you for your interest.

  • Avatar photo
    Latoya C

    Hello! I’m a little disappointed because I have a massive supply of all the brands that your article has advised to avoid. I have such a huge supply because Burlington baby and Kroger have had all of these brands on clearance over the past 4 months.

    It’s kind of upsetting because these stores must have know of these damming reports coming out to the public. Instead of tossing the products to protect the smallest of consumers, they still chose to pass it off to their customers under the guise of “clearance”. How shameful.

    I’ve recently learned about Cerebelly, so I have replenished my infant’s stock with that brand instead. According to their website, their farmers willingly test and submitted results to ensure the product has little to no heavy metals in the baby food.

    Great article by the way! I will be sure to bookmark this page for future reference.

  • Avatar photo

    Hopefully soon very soon Yumi will deliver to Canada. I was disheartened to once again find they are recommended first but we are not able to access

  • Avatar photo

    Have you done any research into formula? Particularly which are safe? I’m pregnant again and because of that my supply has significantly decreased. I have to supplement, but I know there is the same issue with formula.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *