Critics say new FDA limits on arsenic levels in baby rice grains are much higher



The US Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday issued its final guidance on limiting the level of inorganic arsenic found in baby rice grains – limiting arsenic levels to 100 billion per billion. Its same level is proposed in 2016.

The agency stated that the guidance applies to all types of baby rice grains: white, brown, organically grown and traditionally grown rice.

The action prompted immediate criticism from consumer advocacy groups.

Consumer Reports, which has studied the levels of arsenic and other toxic metals in baby food, praised the FDA for its action, but wanted more.

“FDA’s action is an important first step, but the agency needs to be more aggressive in protecting young children from the dangers of arsenic and other heavy metals in food,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy for Consumer Reports , a statement.

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Consumer Reports senior scientist Michael Hanson said in the statement, “Parents can take a number of steps to limit their child’s exposure to heavy metals in food, but they should be able to expect that the government will first be in public health. Is paying attention to. ”

“The FDA should set protective targets to reduce exposure to heavy metals, with the goal of having no measurable levels in children’s food.”

Equally important was Healthy Babies Bright Futures, a coalition of scientists and non-profit organizations working to reduce children’s toxic chemicals in the first 1,000 days of development.

“It’s not a big enough move,” said Charlotte Brody, National Director of Healthy Babies Bright Futures, in a statement.

“Setting standards for the maximum amount of arsenic in baby food is a start to keep them safe. But 100 ppb is still too high,” Brody said. “No amount of arsenic, lead or other toxic heavy metal is safe for infants.”

The FDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Heavy metals in baby foods

In 2017, Healthy Babies Bright Futures commissioned 168 baby foods tested from major manufacturers in the United States. Tests found that 73% of baby foods contain arsenic, 95% of lead, 75% of cadmium and 32% of mercury. A quarter of the foods contained all four heavy metals.
The report states that 95% of baby food in the US contains toxic metals
The results mimicked a previous study by the FDA that found one or more metals in 33 of 39 types of baby food.

The Healthy Babies Bright Futures report found that baby rice cereals, rice dishes and rice-based snacks topped the list of the most toxic foods for infants.

The 2017 report states that these popular baby foods are not only the highest in inorganic arsenic, but the most toxic form of arsenic, but all of them are always toxic.

“Even in trace amounts found in food, these contaminants can alter the developing brain and destroy a child’s IQ. The effects add up with each meal or eat a child. ”

Arsenic hazard

Arsenic is a natural element found in soil, water and air, with the inorganic form being the most toxic. (“Inorganic” is a chemical term and has nothing to do with the farming method.)

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Inorganic arsenic intake has been associated with cancer, skin lesions, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. According to studies, inorganic arsenic has also been linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes and neurodevelopmental toxicity.

Because rice is grown in water, it is particularly good at absorbing inorganic arsenic and, according to the FDA, the highest concentration of any food.

Brown and wild rice are the worst offenders, as the milling process used to make white rice removes the outer layers, where arsenic is very concentrated.

Buying organic does not help. A 2012 study found that brown rice syrup, a frequent sweetener in organic foods, was also a source of significant levels of arsenic. An “organic” milk formula that was sold to toddlers had levels of inorganic arsenic that are currently considered safe by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Infants and children are at greater risk of exposure to inorganic arsenic because their diets are often less diverse than adults, and they consume more food relative to their body weight than adults.

Level down

Agency data shows that most products in the market are already below the level that is now being recommended, FDA Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Susan Mayne said in a statement.

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Results from FDA samples taken in 2011 indicated that B६% of the samples were at or below the 100 ppb level, while 6% of the samples tested in 2014 and 37% of the samples tested between 2011 and 2013 Was.

The agency said that any rice rice producers who do not meet the new standard can achieve the target using good manufacturing practices.

In particular, companies can carefully select the source of rice and rice-derived materials with low levels of inorganic arsenic.

According to Healthy Babies Bright Futures, the lowest levels of arsenic are found in basmati rice grown in California, India and Pakistan.

However, Consumer Reports stated that a 2018 trial of 50 pack foods for infants and children found that at least two-thirds had the least alarming levels of three heavy metals: inorganic arsenic, cadmium and lead .

Rice and sweet potato snacks and products were likely to have higher levels of heavy metals, which were found in the test.

Susceptible children

National Dietary Surveys show that healthy babies are 2.5 times more likely to eat rice a day than other children, according to Healthy Babies Bright Futures, while Asian Americans eat about 10 times more rice than the national average.

In addition, the group said, children who have been diagnosed with celiac disease – an intolerance to wheat – often eat rice products and thus ingest about 14 times more arsenic than other children.

Risk from heavy metals increases over time, Consumer Reports said, “because they accumulate in the kidneys and other internal organs.

Consumer Reports states that regular intake of small amounts for a long period of time can also increase the risk of bladder, lung and skin cancers; Cognitive and reproductive problems and type 2 diabetes.

“In setting this limit, the agency did not consider IQ harm or other forms of neurological effects, allow for cancer risks far beyond protective limits, and is not responsible for children who have arsenic in rice. There is an unusually high risk, ”the Healthy Babylon Bright Futures statement stated.

“The FDA will take this action to reduce the risk of infants from toxic heavy metals in rice-based foods.”

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