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!