It’s not clear yet whether the arsenic will affect their health down
“We knew rice cereal was a typical first food for babies – but we
knew very little about how common it is to feed infants rice cereal
in the U.S., or about the timing of introduction of rice cereal,”
said lead author Margaret Karagas, of the Geisel School of Medicine
at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
Rice grains can take up arsenic from their environment, and U.S.
rice has some of the highest arsenic concentrations in the world,
“Arsenic is a known carcinogen that can influence risk of
cardiovascular, immune and other diseases,” Karagas told Reuters
Health by email. “There’s a growing body of evidence that even
relatively low levels of exposure may have adverse health impacts on
young children including on growth, immunity and neurodevelopment.”
She and her team are still investigating whether the infants in this
study had any health effects due to arsenic exposure, she said.
The researchers studied 759 infants born to mothers age 18 to 45.
Parents reported their infant’s intake of rice products like rice
cakes or puffs or dried breakfast cereals containing rice, or brands
of cereal bars sweetened with brown rice syrup, in interviews when
the baby was four, eight and 12 months of age. The researchers also
collected infant urine samples to test for arsenic levels.
About 80 percent of the children were introduced to rice cereal
before age one, and a third were eating rice snacks by their first
Among kids who did not eat fish or seafood, urinary arsenic
concentrations were higher for those who ate infant rice cereal or
snacks than for those who did not, according to results in JAMA
The researchers also tested for arsenic levels in some of the more
commonly reported rice snacks.
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“We were surprised by the percentage of infants who ate rice snacks
and that one of these products contained levels above the current
E.U. standard of 100 parts per billion,” Karagas said. “This was a
strawberry flavored puffed rice snack, which contained 40 percent
inorganic arsenic, with the first two ingredients listed as brown
and white rice flour.”
Inorganic arsenic exposure has been linked to cancer as well as
other health problems such as neurological, cardiovascular,
respiratory and metabolic diseases, said Dr. Antonio J. Signes-Pastor,
of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University
Belfast in Northern Ireland.
“This is of particular concern for young children, who are more
sensitive to adverse health effects of inorganic arsenic and consume
higher amount of inorganic arsenic from food compared to adults per
kilogram of body weight,” said Signes-Pastor, who was not part of
the new study.
It is important, he said in an email, “to reduce exposure by
establishing maximum limits of inorganic arsenic in rice and
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had proposed a limit for
inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal of 100 parts per billion,
which would mimic the current limit in the European Union, Karagas
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1pyJdV8 JAMA Pediatrics, online April 25,
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