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Trial starts in baby food label suit

SAN FRANCISCO — A trial began Monday in a lawsuit filed by an environmental group against the nation’s largest baby food makers aimed at forcing the companies to alert consumers that some products contains low amounts of lead.

The trial will help determine if the products must ­carry warnings in California.

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Gerber Products Co., Del Monte Foods, Beech-Nut ­Nutrition Corp., and many other makers of baby foods and juices are selling products containing lead at levels that require warning labels under California Proposition 65, the Environmental Law Foundation asserts in the suit filed in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland.

Lawyers for the food companies say the Food and Drug Administration tested ­products targeted in the ­lawsuit and decided levels were below the federal standards that require a warning.

FDA tests on products named in the lawsuit also found lead levels ‘‘below FDA’s current tolerable intake levels for lead.’’

But both sides in the case agree on one fact: Baby foods containing carrots, peaches, pears, and sweet potatoes have some lead. Also covered by the suit are grape juice and fruit cocktail.

The companies argue that the lead in fruit and vegetables used in the products is naturally occurring. If the trial judge finds that is true, it could exempt the companies from having to warn consumers.

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