Does this video show metal being pulled out of baby food with a magnet?

By March 21, 2024 Health

A TikTok video has been circulating recently that shows a magnet being used to pull out small metal pieces from a sample of oatmeal-based baby food from the brand Gerber. Comments on and reposts of the video suggest that this is evidence of dangerous heavy metals in baby food.Black Dot Research has previously fact-checked claims about the presence of lead in baby food, and about broader anxieties surrounding the presence of heavy metals in food products. In this context, the visible presence of metal pieces emerging from the baby food in the claim video does appear alarming.

However, a closer look at the baby food in question – and its ingredient’s list – reveals that it contains 6.75mg of Iron among other vitamins and minerals.Iron has been used in baby formula and foods for decades due to its beneficial impacts on development and learning ability in babies. Iron deficiency in children can lead to issues such as anaemia, developmental delays and cognitive concerns. While Iron can be consumed through solid foods such as red meat, eggs, or leafy greens, formula and baby foods made to meet specific nutritional needs are often used to supplement Iron in a baby’s diet.

Because the form of Iron added as a fortifying supplement (most commonly in products such as breakfast cereals and oatmeal) has magnetic qualities, it is possible to extract small Iron pieces with a powerful enough magnet. This would not be possible to do with foods that naturally contain Iron (such as beef or spinach) as they exist in the form of chemical compounds that are not magnetic.

We found that similar concerns and viral “magnet tests” had been done in 2021 by other social media users. These were clarified by other fact-checking platforms and by a direct response from Gerber, who identified the small metal pieces as Iron and emphasised that they are completely safe to consume. This is backed by long-standing medical and scientific consensus, which holds that Iron is an important mineral for both babies and adults.  The claim video does not prove the presence of heavy metals or other dangerous ingredients in baby food. While metal is being pulled out of baby food using a magnet, the metal is Iron – a beneficial and necessary mineral for baby development. It is food-safe and a commonly added supplement in food products such as cereals and oatmeal. We  therefore give this claim a rating of somewhat true.

The use of videos such as this one to push a narrative or suggest non-existent danger is where the misinformation begins. The presence of Iron in food is well documented and understood. We found numerous examples of magnets being used to pull iron out of cereals and oatmeal – many even in an experimental or science-classroom setting.

The framing and presentation of the video to cause fear over heavy metals or doctored food despite the abundance of evidence showing otherwise illustrates how existing fears can be preyed upon to sow disinformation and spread misinformation.

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