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  1. Environmental Contaminants in Food

Cadmium in Food and Foodwares

Cadmium may be present in food from the environment where foods are grown, raised, or processed. Levels of cadmium in the environment can vary depending on natural geographical makeup of soil and proximity to current or past use or manufacturing of products made with cadmium. For example, cadmium levels are higher in areas where some phosphate fertilizers are used, and where industrial processes such as smelting, mining, and burning of fossil fuels occur. Current uses of cadmium include nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) rechargeable batteries, coatings (electroplating), solar cells, and pigments.

Because cadmium exposure at certain levels can be harmful to health, the FDA monitors and regulates levels of cadmium in foods. While it is not possible to completely prevent cadmium from entering the food supply, for foods that contain cadmium, it may be possible to reduce levels through changes to agricultural or manufacturing practices. By law, food manufacturers have a responsibility to significantly minimize or prevent chemical hazards when needed.

To determine if the level of cadmium in a food is a potential health concern, the FDA considers the toxicity of cadmium and potential exposure based on the level measured in the food and estimated consumption. We also may consider the risks specific to vulnerable subpopulations (e.g., very young children). If the agency finds that the level of cadmium causes a food to be unsafe, we will take regulatory action. This may include working with the manufacturer to resolve the issue, and as necessary, taking steps to prevent the product from entering, or remaining, in the U.S. market.

Among the FDA’s top priorities is maintaining access to foods that are sources of nutrients while limiting consumer exposure to contaminants. Having adequate nutrition is vital to growth and development for babies and children and helps promote health and prevent disease throughout our lifespan. The FDA collaborates with state and federal partners, industry, and other stakeholders to identify and facilitate the implementation of sustainable and effective strategies for growing, sourcing, processing, and manufacturing foods that contain lower levels of environmental contaminants, such as cadmium, while maintaining their nutritional quality and accessibility.

For more information about the FDA’s specific activities to reduce exposure to arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury from foods consumed by babies and young children, please visit the Closer to Zero page.

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