Archived: The Pediatrician’s Guide to Understanding the New FDA Guidelines on Arsenic in Rice: Should Rice Still be Considered a ‘First Food’ when Introducing Solids?

In 2013, the FDA released information on the presence of potentially high levels of arsenic found in rice products. Here are four things you need to know to better understand what this means for your child:

  • Infants often consume high amounts of rice: It is often the first grain and food introduced when solids are started at 4-6 months of age. Rice intake for infants, which mostly is ingested from rice cereal, is nearly three times greater than adults. Based on national data, 8 month old infants consume the most rice relative to their body weight.
  • Rice takes up arsenic from soil and water more easily than other foods: Arsenic is found naturally in water, air, food, and soil or can be the result of contamination from human actions, such as mining and using pesticides containing arsenic. Arsenic occurs in two forms. Inorganic arsenic is thought to be harmful and is associated with negative health effects, such as not only a child’s poorer performance on developmental tests measuring learning, but also a higher risk for bladder and lung cancer. Organic arsenic, however, is thought to be harmless.
  • FDA has set new limits on inorganic arsenic in rice cereal to <100 parts per billion: The good news is that according to the FDA data, slightly less than half of rice cereal currently on the market already meets these proposed guidelines, with a large majority containing levels that are close to the proposed levels. The FDA also tested other foods commonly eaten by infants and toddlers and found that all of these non-rice foods contained low levels of arsenic that were well below the established limit.
  • Offer a variety of iron-fortified foods: Iron should be an important part of a baby’s diet, especially if you are breast-feeding. In addition to rice, other iron fortified cereals, such as those made from wheat, oatmeal and multi-grain, as well as pureed meats, can be given as first foods. In fact, the FDA advises that babies should be exposed to a wide variety of foods and not to consume too much of one food, therefore, helping to limit arsenic exposure. They also suggest that rice cereal does not have to be the first infant cereal introduced.
  • Remember, one of the most important facts is to simply offer your baby a wide variety of foods!

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Dina DiMaggio, MD
Dina is a board certified pediatrician at Pediatric Associates of NYC and at NYU Langone Medical Center. She has received numerous research awards, along with Patient’s Choice Award (2008 to 2012) and compassionate doctor recognition (2010, 2012). She was honored in 2014 and 2015 as a New York Rising Star and in 2016 as a New York Super Doctor. Dina currently serves as a pediatric expert on nutrition for The Bump’s Real Answers and is the co-author of The Pediatrician's Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers, a comprehensive manual written by a team of medical, nutrition and culinary experts (www.pediatriciansguide.com). She is dedicated to educating parents on baby and toddler nutrition and gives talks to parent groups throughout New York. She attended Barnard College, graduated summa cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa Society, and went on to attend medical school at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where she was elected into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. She completed her pediatric residency at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and her hematology/oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Anthony Porto, MD
Anthony is a board certified pediatrician and board certified pediatric gastroenterologist. He is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Clinical Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology at Yale University and Director, Pediatric Gastroenterology at Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, CT. He is also the medical director of the Yale Pediatric Celiac Program. He sees patients in Greenwich, Trumbull, and New Haven, CT. He has won numerous awards including the Norman J. Seigel Award at Yale University in 2015 for leadership and providing outstanding clinical care as well as Physician of the Year during his time at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. He has been named Castle Connolly Top Doctors since 2012. He is on the American Academy of Pediatrics PREP Gastroenterology Advisory Board and writes web-based education materials as a member of the Public Education committee of the North American Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. He also currently serves as a pediatric expert on nutrition for The Bump’s Real Answers. Anthony is interested in nutrition, especially in the care of children with difficulty gaining weight, feeding issues, and celiac disease.Anthony is the co-author of The Pediatrician's Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers, a comprehensive manual written by a team of medical, nutrition and culinary experts (www.pediatriciansguide.com). He graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience and Behavior and attended medical school at Tufts University School of Medicine where he also received his master of public health. He completed his pediatric residency at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center and his pediatric gastroenterology fellowship at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York at Columbia University.
 

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