An Industry Guide on Testing for Heavy Metals in Food and Other Products

Food containing heavy metals is usually a matter of discussion. The first worry was that infant food contained heavy metals. A while back, there was news that certain dark chocolate brands contained lead and cadmium.

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Heavy metals testing is crucial, but frequently misunderstood, regardless of the type of food product, nutritional supplement, cosmetic, spice, or other product you manufacture. We go over how to test for heavy metals in food and other items in this post. We’ll also go over how to check food for lead. Now let’s get going.

How Do Heavy Metals Achieve Food Safety?

Most people are aware that pollution is the source of heavy metals including lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury. Many of us have memories of leaded paint or gasoline from before they were outlawed in the US in 1978 or 1996, respectively.

However, a lot of people are shocked to hear that heavy metals may be found in some foods and are a naturally occurring part of the environment.

Heavy metals from the ground, air, or water can be absorbed by plants, poisoning the food chain. This implies that eating such a plant might expose a human or animal to heavy metals.

Heavy metals may be very difficult, if not impossible, to totally eradicate from the environment because they are a natural part of it and have been contaminated for decades. Because of this, we need to be careful to safeguard the food supply, which includes checking foods and other items for heavy metals before they are made available to the general population.

Which four heavy metals are the most toxic?

These four heavy metals are the most dangerous to humans and are under the most investigation, even though any heavy metal can be harmful if eaten in excess over extended periods of time:

Take the lead




These metals can have detrimental effects on the developing brain, which makes them particularly hazardous to youngsters.

Anyone, not only kids, might experience a variety of health issues as a result of prolonged exposure, such as cancer, anemia, brain damage, renal failure, and other issues. Given this, the FDA claims to keep the closest eye on these four heavy metals in food and other items.

What Level of Heavy Metals Is Acceptable in Food?

This is where it all becomes murky with heavy metals in food and other things.

The U.S. FDA does not set acceptable limits for heavy metals in food, despite the fact that it is well known that excessive ingestion can have detrimental effects.

Rather, the FDA has always advised people to avoid consuming specific foods that are high in heavy metals, such shellfish and baby food made of rice. The FDA has also recommended to the industry the amount of arsenic that should be reduced in various foods that babies and children frequently ingest, such apple juice.

However, you won’t discover a single source that outlines the FDA’s permitted amounts of lead, cadmium, mercury, or arsenic in the food items you manufacture because there isn’t one.

How Is the FDA Keeping an Eye on Heavy Metals in Food?

Instead of setting heavy metal limitations for each food product, the FDA uses its Total Diet Study to keep an eye on the country’s food supply. The organization collects food samples from hundreds of locations nationwide and analyzes them for over 400 pollutants, heavy metals included. In order to assist assure safety, the government uses such facts as well as other data it obtains to comprehend the normal American’s diet.

The FDA has the authority to hold imported goods because of high levels of heavy metals, even in the absence of established limitations. Based on its own standards, the government then conducts testing to ascertain if the product is safe for entrance into U.S. commerce.

Is it Necessary to Test Food for Heavy Metals?

You might be wondering if your business really needs to test for heavy metals in your food items or other products, given the absence of Federal restrictions.

As annoying as it may be, “It depends” is the response.

Creating a solid food safety management system for your business should be the first step. It should involve thorough risk assessments and hazard analyses for both the production process and the ingredients. Testing could be necessary as a verification technique if the likelihood of certain heavy metals or other California Prop 65 contaminants, particularly in the components, is high enough.

It’s crucial to remember that even while a component doesn’t have a high risk of heavy metals or other contaminants, the procedure could make it more likely. Nuts, for instance, might not be dangerous, but you should test for “acrylamide,” a contaminant that may be introduced during the roasting process.