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Andrew D'Arcy
Andrew D'Arcy
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FDA Wants Arsenic Limit in Infant Rice Cereal

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On April 1, 2016, a proposed limit on “inorganic” arsenic in infant rice cereal was announced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  Infant rice cereal is a leading source of arsenic exposure in babies, the agency said, since arsenic can find its way into rice from natural sources or from fertilizers and pesticides.

Arsenic is an element found naturally in soil and water, but rice plants tend to absorb more arsenic than do other crops.  The FDA said infants consume much more rice than adults relative to their weight, mostly because babies eat infant rice cereal.  They noted that inorganic arsenic exposure in infants and pregnant women may lead to a child’s decreased performance on certain developmental tests that measure learning.

After an extensive study of arsenic levels in food, the FDA proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal.  The agency’s testing has shown that most infant rice cereals now on the market (around 80 percent) already meet, or are close to meeting, this requirement.  The agency has already set limits for levels of inorganic arsenic in drinking water and apple juice but the new proposal, if finalized, would be the first limit for arsenic in food.

Infant rice cereal is widely used in the United States.  In a published statement from Gerber, the leading manufacturer of infant rice cereal, they reassured parents of rice cereal safety.  It stated “Although our products are safe to consume, we recognize some consumers may have concerns about arsenic in foods.  Therefore, earlier this year, we decided to exclusively use California rice in all of our rice-containing dry infant cereal.  We chose California rice because California has the lowest arsenic levels for rice grown in the United States.”

The FDA recommends that people eat a well-balanced diet to minimize the potential health effects of consuming too much of any one food.  The agency recommends that parents feed their infants iron-fortified cereals, including rice, oat, barley and multigrain cereals.  Rice cereal should not be the only source of nutrients for a baby.

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