Levels of arsenic in baby rice cereal are much higher than other infant cereals, according to a recent study.
And, some are higher than FDA recommendations.
Healthy Babies Bright Futures, an advocacy group working to reduce toxins in a baby’s environment, tested 105 cereals nationwide for arsenic contamination. The group found arsenic levels in infant rice cereal averaged six times higher than in oatmeal, multi-grain, quinoa and other non-rice infant cereals, in a non-peer reviewed study published online this week.
The group is calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to more strictly regulate arsenic levels in baby food. The toxin is associated with developmental defects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, diabetes and even cancer, according to the World Health Organization.
In 2016, the FDA proposed a recommendation of no more than 100 parts per billion of arsenic in infant cereal. That recommendation isn’t requirement. (To put that in perspective, the Environmental Protection Agency limits arsenic in water to 10 ppb.)
Jennifer Lowry, chair of the American Academy of Pediatric's Council on Environmental Health, said the FDA standard on arsenic is "completely ineffective."
"As the report alludes, it isn’t working as there are too many baby foods that continue to have too high of levels," Lowry, who is not affiliated with the study, said in an email.
In samples collected by the FDA as recently as this summer, it reports most of the products it tested fell below 100 parts per billion. The Healthy Babies study found 85 ppb of arsenic, on average, in the rice cereals tested. One product tested registered at 235 ppb. Arsenic is not intentionally added to rice, it’s absorbed from the environment. It also can’t be completely removed.
“We welcome the data provided by Healthy Babies Bright Futures and will review it in its entirety to inform our efforts in reducing inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal products,” the FDA said in a statement. “The FDA continues to advise consumers to feed infants and toddlers a variety of fortified infant cereals, rather than relying solely on infant rice cereal.”
The AAP says parents can reduce their baby's arsenic exposure by breastfeeding, varying their baby's diet, limiting fruit juices, avoiding brown rice syrup in processed foods and avoid using rice milk as a dairy substitute.
Healthy Babies Bright Futures is a project of the charity the New Venture Fund public charity. It is funded by charitable grants from foundations and gifts from individuals. The study was funded by grants from Forsythia Foundation, Passport Foundation, and The John Merck Fund.
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