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Since the Dartmouth college and consumer report published the research and article about arsenic in rice in 2012 and how infant exposure to the inorganic arsenic were among the highest had raised an alarm to the parent groups and pediatric health care providers. To this date, I still hear the same conversation between parents, doctors and dietitians.
As a pediatric dietitian, I’ve yet to see an infant with arsenic poisoning came my way whether it be in the hospital or outpatient clinics. None the less, there’s some concern about inorganic arsenic in rice cereal/ rice products but since 2012, the infant cereal manufacturer has taken action to uses rice that has the least amount of inorganic arsenic for infant cereal and also provided other options of infant cereal such as Oats, Barley and Multi-grain.
BEWARE – brown rice cereal/brown rice has the highest amount of inorganic arsenic compared to regular rice cereal/ white rice. Same applies to organic baby formula which uses organic brown rice syrup -has also been tested with high level of arsenic content.
*So far, I only found Nature’s One Baby’s Only Toddler organic formula has a disclaimer that took action in filtering their brown rice syrup to an undetectable level of arsenic content.
What exactly is Arsenic ? Why does it matter ?
According to Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Arsenic is an element in the Earth’s crust, and is present in water, air, and soil. It occurs both naturally in the environment and as a result of human activity, including from erosion of arsenic-containing rocks, volcanic eruptions, contamination from mining and smelting ores and previous or current use of arsenic-containing pesticides. Long-term exposure to high levels of arsenic is associated with higher rates of skin, bladder and lung cancers, as well as heart disease. The FDA is currently examining these and other long-term effects.
So is it still safe to provide rice cereal/ rice products to my baby and children?
Short answer is YES. The latest data analysis conducted by FDA in 2014 shows that majority of the rice cereal averaged about 103 parts per billion and the new proposal to limit the total arsenic content in rice cereal is set at 100 parts per billion (same as the European commission). If you provide your infant/young children with variety of foods and rice is not the only source of grains, you shouldn’t be worried.
There’s also a few ways to help reduce the exposure to high amount of inorganic arsenic if rice is the main stable (such as Asian communities).
- Rinse the rice in large quantities of water until the water is clear. This has been the practice of Asian culture. (As per FDA, rinsing will reduced about 16% of the inorganic arsenic content, but it also rinses off other fortified vitamins and minerals such as iron, thiamine and folate)
- Cook rice in large quantities of water (6:1 to 10:1 ratio) – as in making rice porridge for the infant. Which is also a practice in Asian culture when they first introduce solids. (This will reduce about 43% of the inorganic arsenic content).
- Chooses rice that is lower in arsenic content, such as Basmati, Jasmine and Sushi Rice. Here’s a chart published by consumer report on all the rice that they examine: consumer-reports-arsenic-in-food-november-2012_1
- It is still safe to provide rice cereal to your infant as long as it’s not the only source of solids. Meat, fruits, vegetables are also a good first food options as well. If you are still worried, then choose Oats, Barley, or Multi-grain infant cereal.
- Provide a variety of grains for your toddler and rice shouldn’t be the only grain in his/her diet. VARIETY is the key !!
- Rinse and cook your rice with lots of water.
- Breastfeeding your baby as long as you can. Recommended exclusive for the first 6 months and then up until one years of age.