Due to High Arsenc Levels, FDA Warns Parents to Avoid Infant Rice Cereal

Due to High Arsenc Levels, FDA Warns Parents to Avoid Infant Rice Cereal
Toxins and Chemicals

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it was taking steps to limit the amount of inorganic arsenic found in infant rice cereal, a main source of arsenic exposure in infants.

The agency released a draft guidance to the industry that would cap inorganic arsenic levels at 100 parts per billion (ppb). Most cereals already meet that limit, or come close to it.

The agency is directing the industry to seek out rice sources that have the smallest amount of inorganic arsenic to use in its cereal products, according to Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. [1]

Said Mayne:

“Our actions are driven by our duty to protect the public health and our careful analysis of the data and the emerging science. The proposed limit is a prudent and achievable step to reduce exposure to arsenic among infants.” [2]

Gerber issued a press release saying that its cereal already meets the limit proposed by the FDA.

The proposed limit was sparked by the results of testing of rice and non-rice products, as well as a 2016 agency risk assessment on the link between inorganic arsenic exposure and adverse pregnancy outcomes and neurological effects in early life.

The FDA tested 76 samples of infant rice cereal from retail stores and discovered that close to half of them met the agency’s proposed limit on inorganic arsenic. More than 3/4 of the samples had levels at or below 110 ppb.

The agency is not recommending that the general population change the amount of rice they consume, but said it was offering targeted information for pregnant women and infants to limit their exposure.

The FDA is, however, advising parents to feed their babies iron-fortified cereals, which can include oat, barley, and other grains. Pregnant women are urged to eat a variety of foods, including grains, such as wheat, oats, and barley. The health watchdog also noted that cooking rice in excess water – 6 to 10 parts water to 1 rice – can reduce a significant part of the inorganic arsenic.

There is currently no legal limit for arsenic levels in food. In 2012, Consumer Reports urged the US to set limits for arsenic in rice after tests on more than 60 popular products revealed that most contained inorganic arsenic.

Upon hearing the news of the FDA’s draft guidance on infant rice cereal, the consumer products magazine said it welcomes the proposed limit, but remained “concerned that so many other rice-based products” consumed by children and adults remain without any standards at all.”

The magazine said it would continue to push the FDA to set levels for such products, especially ready-to-eat cereal for children. [3]

Consumer Reports Arsenic in Food Limit Exposure November 2012
Source: Consumer Reports

Inorganic arsenic is arsenic that is not naturally occurring. It is often used in feed for poultry and sometimes hogs to prevent disease. Animal waste can contaminate farm fields and waterways when it is used as a fertilizer. In addition to rice, inorganic arsenic is also commonly found in fruit, vegetables, and seafood.

High levels of inorganic arsenic have been found in rice grown in regions of the United States where cotton was previously grown. Much of that cotton was coated in arsenic-containing pesticides, which seeped into the soil that was later used to grow rice.

2012 Report: Rice Most and Least Contaminated with Arsenic

There is also arsenic in our drinking water. According to a 2014 study, even in US states where arsenic levels in drinking water are very low (5 ppb), that small amount is enough to reduce memory, verbal comprehension, and perceptual reasoning in school-age children. In some areas of the country, citizens are consuming water that is considered a 62 percentile toxicity level drinking water, or higher.

You can see why it’s so vital to protect newborn, developing brains from yet another arsenic source.


[1] The Washington Post

[2] The Hill

[3] Reuters

Consumer Reports

Featured image source: ABC News