Babies Fed Rice Cereal Have Far Higher Arsenic Levels

Move over rice, other grains may become more popular cereal
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 27, 2016 6:45 AM CDT
Babies Fed Rice Cereal Have Far Higher Arsenic Levels
Experts are now suggesting that a baby's first cereal be finely ground oats, wheat, or barley.   (Gerber)

Feeding infants rice cereals as first foods is taking a new hit from researchers and organizations alike, and now a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics adds to the growing chorus that rice be scaled back or put off altogether. This is because, as researchers report, infants who are fed rice cereal have much higher arsenic levels, and the long-term effects of exposure to arsenic in food are yet to be determined. Just this month, the FDA proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal. Rice is especially popular as a first food because it is so rarely an allergen, but rice grains are also especially good at absorbing arsenic, which naturally occurs in soil and water, reports ABC News. Meanwhile, the FDA reports that as a percentage of body weight, infants get three times as much rice as adults, primarily in the form of cereal.

The researchers examined the diets of 759 infants and found that 80% were introduced to rice in their first year. Compared to babies with no rice in their diets, those who were fed rice cereal had more than three times the level of arsenic in their urine. "We were surprised by the number of infants consuming rice products," one of the researchers tells NPR, which notes that the FDA suggests trying oats, wheat, or barley as a first food, while the American Academy of Pediatricians says that a wide variety of foods will decrease a baby's exposure to arsenic from rice, including finely chopped meats and vegetable purees. Gerber, for its part, reports that in early 2016 it began to source its rice exclusively from California, which has been shown to grow the rice with the lowest arsenic levels in the country. But it reminds consumers that some arsenic is simply unavoidable in a wide range of healthy foods. (Scientists say one cooking method removes half the arsenic in rice.)

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