Warning over 'too much' baby rice cereal due to inorganic arsenic.

Parents in the US are being warned over inorganic arsenic levels in rice cereal.

Hang on – arsenic – baby rice cereal?! It is the first solid food I ever fed my baby.

Rice intake for infants is three times greater than adults and has become a “leading cause of arsenic exposure in infants”, according to the American FDA.

They warn exposure to inorganic arsenic in infants and pregnant women can result in developmental issues for children – such as decreased performance on developmental tests.

The Australian food regulator, FSANZ, has previously looked into the issue of but concluded it was unlikely to be a risk. Phew.

However, FSANZ, is in agreement with some of the FDA’s advice to caregivers and pregnant women.  They recommend “a well-balanced diet for good nutrition” which helps “minimise potential adverse consequences from consuming an excess of one food.”

But why is arsenic even in our food? Here are the facts:

  • Several factors can influence how much arsenic is in a final food, including cooking and processing.
  • Arsenic occurs in organic and inorganic forms.
  • The organic forms have relatively low toxicity while the inorganic forms present a greater hazard.
  • Levels of processed foods like rice cereal are likely to have a lower level of total arsenic than raw rice grain.

So here are the numbers, in the US, the proposed limit is no more than 100 parts per billion of inorganic arsenic in rice cereal. Their market tests showed that most cereals on the supermarket shelf were meeting or close-to the proposed limit.

In Australia, The Food Standards Code has a limit of 1mg/kg for total arsenic in rice. With the focus on rice, rather than a specific product.

After looking at total arsenic in a wide-range of foods and high consumers - including infants, the FSANZ said there was "unlikely to be a human health and safety risk".

So phew. It looks like all the advice is pointing to a balanced diet.

Shame I feed my baby the same breakfast every single day.

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