Is arsenic in rice a concern when feeding your baby? What about older kids and adults; should you worry about the amount of rice you eat? Generally, I don't like to fear monger or make you think our food is "toxic", but I wanted to dig into this a little further today, since it's such a common question.
Watch the video, or read on:
Arsenic is an element naturally found in the air, water and soil. The natural arsenic in animals and plants is called organic arsenic and we're not worried about that. Inorganic arsenic is the concern. It's also found in soil or water, but is more dangerous. And levels of organic arsenic have been increasing, due to pollution due to industrial manufacturing.
Arsenic is listed as one of the World Health Organization’s 10 chemicals of major public health concern. But this is mostly in areas such as Bangladesh where the water is contaminated and thousands have died.
In terms of inorganic arsenic in the food we eat, rice is the largest source. It absorbs 10-20x the amount of arsenic that other crops do. And rice is found in so many processed products: rice milk, Rice Krispies, rice crackers, infant rice cereal. Many natural energy or sport bars also contain brown rice syrup as the sweetener. Which goes to show that "gluten-free" (mostly rice-based) or "organic" are not always healthier, and sometimes less healthy than regular options.
Most of us know that arsenic in high doses causes death. But long-term ingestion of smaller amounts is linked to diabetes, heart disease and cancers. It's called arsenics or chronic arsenic poisoning. In children, arsenic exposure been linked to cognition or reduced intelligence. Recent studies also suggest that arsenic exposure in utero may have effects on the baby’s immune system.
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States tested 1,300 samples of rice and rice products. Average levels of inorganic arsenic ranged from 1 ppb in infant formula up to 160 ppb in brown rice.
Based on its testing, the FDA in 2016 proposed limit, of 100 parts per billion (ppb) for inorganic arsenic, but only in infant rice cereal. The reason they chose to put limits on infant cereal is that: "Relative to body weight, rice intake for infants, primarily through infant rice cereal, is about three times greater than for adults. Moreover......people consume the most rice (relative to their weight) at approximately 8 months of age." In the infant cereals the FDA tested, half were over the limit, generally by a small amount.
The FDA has not set a limit on the amount of arsenic in other rice products or the amount of rice that adults should eat. Instead, they recommend adults “Eat a well-balanced diet for good nutrition and to minimize potential adverse consequences from consuming an excess of any one food.”
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, and share this video & blog if you have friends that would like to learn about this!
And want to learn more about Babyled Weaning? Watch my free webinar "How to get started with BLW" here