August 11, 2020

FDA Releases Infant Rice Cereal Arsenic Tests; Improvement Noted

The FDA is releasing information about their testing of infant rice cereal arsenic results that show manufacturers have made “significant progress” reducing levels of inorganic arsenic, the most dangerous type, in their products.

FDA Releases Infant Rice Cereal Arsenic Tests; Improvement Noted

There are two types of arsenic: organic arsenic, which is mainly found in seafood and may not be toxic to humans, and inorganic arsenic, which is highly toxic. Organic arsenic bonds with carbon, but inorganic arsenic bonds with a non-carbon element such as oxygen. Most people consume inorganic arsenic from drinking water and foods.

A study conducted in 2017 found that there is six times more arsenic in infant rice cereal than other types of cereals. Rice can contain arsenic because of how it is grown. The rice plants are planted in old cotton fields in the south, where growers sprayed arsenic as a pesticide for decades. The heavy metal is absorbed by the plant’s roots as it grows.

Inorganic arsenic is dangerous because it causes cancer, heart disease, lung disease, IQ loss, diabetes, and neurological problems. And its effect is multiplied in infants and young children because they are growing rapidly.

FDA first sampled infant rice cereals for inorganic arsenic in 2011 – 2013. In 2018, the FDA tested 149 infant rice cereals and proposed an action level of 100 parts per billion (PPB) for inorganic rice in infant rice cereals. At that time, 76% of infant rice cereals met the recommended target, compared to 36% of samples from the collection. in 2011 – 2013. The improvement was greatest for white rice cereals, but that may be cause they generally have lower levels of inorganic arsenic.

The results show that the FDA’s proposed action level ” is achievable with the use of good manufacturing practices, such as sourcing rice with lower levels of inorganic arsenic.”

Parents should also be aware that rice cereal fortified with iron is a good source of nutrients for infants, but it doesn’t need to be the only source or even the first source. Other good choices include barley, oat, and multigrain infant cereals. And pregnant women should eat a variety of grains as part of their diet.

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