The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants to limit levels of inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereals.
The U.S. FDA released a set of unsettling new guidelines for limiting inorganic arsenic found in infant rice cereal in an attempt to limit exposure to the dangerous chemical. According to a report from the Chicago Tribune, the new rules would seek to reduce the maximum allowable arsenic concentration in infant rice cereal to just 100 parts per billion.
While it may come as a surprise that the Food and Drug Administration would even need to consider limiting arsenic in food marketed for infants, inorganic arsenic is actually relatively common throughout agricultural processes. The guidelines urge manufacturers to seek rice from sources with the least exposure to inorganic arsenic.
Babies consume roughly three times as much rice as the average adult, the majority of which comes in the form of cereals marketed by big manufacturers such as Gerber. Gerber responded to the FDA’s call for tightened guidelines, stating that their infant rice cereals already meet the proposed new level.
Inorganic arsenic, while common, can lead to some serious negative health effects, particularly in infants. The FDA says that exposure to inorganic arsenic can hamper children’s performance on developmental tests and result to a number of neurological, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular disorders if exposure is acute.
Arsenic is found naturally in the soil and water, as well as fertilizers used to grow a large number of crops including rice. The chemical can’t be fully removed from rice, and the FDA estimates that currently only half of food producers’ infant rice cereals meet the newly proposed guideline of 100 parts per billion.
The FDA recommends that parents feed their babies cereals fortified with iron, including oats, barley and other grains. Expecting mothers can pass arsenic on to a developing child, and the FDA urges pregnant women to limit their exposure to foods that have come into contact with arsenic.
A press release from the FDA describing the recent guideline proposal can be found here.