Heavy metals come in elemental, organic and inorganic forms. Some forms are more stable, and/or more soluble, will uptake into food more readily and are more or less toxic than other forms.
Metals and other elements can be naturally present in food or can enter food as a result of human activities such as industrial and agricultural processes.
Heavy metals can be found in meat, fish, minerals, dairy, infant formulae, cereals and vegetables.
These heavy metals may create adverse health effects. Exposure to large concentrations of lead can affect the central nervous system, the kidneys and the immune system. In children, even at low levels, lead is associated with impaired cognitive function, including reduced IQ, behaviour difficulties and other problems.
Bioaccumulation (accumulation of toxins in living tissue) of metals occurs in all living organisms as a result of exposure to metals in food and the environment, including food animals, such as fish and cattle, as well as humans.
Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead and Mercury are regulated heavy metals.