HOUSTON (KXAN) — Destiny Mireles looks at every ingredient. 

“I have to watch like everything at this point,” said Mireles about what her kids eat. 

Destiny Mireles filed toxic baby food claim with an Alabama law firm. (Courtesy Destiny Mireles)

Mireles explained that when they were younger she didn’t think about the potential impact of metals on their health.

“My youngest is high functioning autistic, my daughter’s ADHD, my second son’s ADHD, my oldest is on a spectrum of autism,” Mireles explained.

Her kids range from 9- to 16-years-old. She said for years she tried to understand what could have caused each diagnosis.

“I have no family history of autism in my family at all,” said the mom from outside of Houston. “I’ve researched it.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, researchers and doctors don’t know all the causes of Autism Spectrum Disorders but they can be influenced by environmental, biologic and genetic factors. Similarly, scientists believe genetics plays an important role in Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder but are also studying other possible causes including environmental factors.

Congressional report: ‘Tainted with Dangerous Levels’

Mireles now thinks it was what she was feeding her kids when they were babies. 

Mireles said she made the connection after a congressional report was released last year found a number of baby foods with high levels of heavy metals. 

“Our bodies naturally need some metals, but those metals can be highly toxic, especially to babies and children,” explained Chandler Duncan, Associate Attorney at Environmental Litigation Group. 

The law firm, out of Alabama, has started taking cases like the Mireles family’s and so far have 1,600 nationwide — 100 of out of Texas. 

“Some of them have an autism diagnosis for their children and autism spectrum disorder diagnosis,” Duncan explained. “Some of these children have delayed speech, delayed motor skills, behavioral issues, difficulty sleeping.”

She pointed to the congressional report which was released in February 2021. 

It said that the baby foods from four of the largest companies were tainted with dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury. The report also said the baby foods containing toxic heavy metals have no label or warning. 

“If we can’t get those products off the shelves, at least we can raise awareness so that people stopped purchasing them, and their children can stop consuming them and being harmed by it,” Duncan said. 

FDA action plan

The law firm is still taking cases and explained that families can get between $100,000 to over $1 million depending on the severity of the case once the lawsuits are filed.

Duncan said they’re still investigating and will have to file each case individually.

KXAN investigators reached out to the companies named in many of the claims the law firm is receiving. 

“At Beech-Nut, we take the responsibility to provide nutritious food as our highest purpose,” emailed a spokesperson with Beech-Nut Nutrition. “Beech-Nut has long had a robust ingredient testing program and is committed to continuously enhancing our food sourcing, safety and quality standards based on up-to-date scientific technology and knowledge.”

The company also said in the statement that Beech-Nut is committed to working with the FDA. 

“Baby food is made from ingredients grown and cultivated from the earth — fruits, grains, and vegetables —some of which contain naturally occurring elements at trace levels that cannot be completely eliminated from the food supply because they are naturally occurring in the air, water and soil and taken up during the growing process. The FDA recommends babies (and all people) continue to eat such foods as part of a healthy and varied diet,” the statement said.

The FDA announced an action plan called “Closer to Zero” in October to reduce toxic elements in foods for babies and young children to as low as possible. 

The FDA explained online that its action plan builds on progress already made in reducing exposure of toxic elements but further reductions will be made by advancing the FDA’s research, encouraging adoption of best practices by industry to lower level of toxic elements in agricultural commodities and products, and monitoring progress of levels over time. 

“Reducing levels of toxic elements in foods is complicated and multifaceted. It is crucial to ensure that measures taken to limit toxic elements in foods do not have unintended consequences — like eliminating from the marketplace foods that have significant nutritional benefits or reducing the presence of one toxic element while increasing another,” said the FDA online explaining its action plan. 

A bill known as the Baby Food Safety Act was introduced after the congressional report.

It urges the FDA to set maximum and acceptable levels of dangerous heavy metals in baby foods. It was referred to the Subcommittee on Health.