Arsenic? In infant rice cereal? YEP...but it’s not what you think. Arsenic is a natural element to Earth that is found in soil, water, and air. So it’s only to be expected that we will find it in some of the things we place in our mouths...and yes, the mouths of our children.
There are two forms of arsenic: organic and inorganic. Inorganic arsenic is super toxic and is found in contaminated water. When there is long-term exposure to the inorganic version, poisoning can occur. On the other hand, organic arsenic has a very low toxicity and is less harmful, but is still considered toxic. It is not organic because you can buy it at Whole Foods, but rather because it is found in foods we eat like shellfish, many dairy products, meats and cereals. Which is how we come to the discussion of infant rice cereal. Those foods that organically carry arsenic become more toxic when the soils, pesticides and contaminated water that hold the inorganic type are mixed. For example, the rice grains (organic arsenic) are grown from plants that are in soil (organic) and then fertilized (organic) and possibly irrigated with contaminated water (inorganic) or clean water (organic). As you can see, the amount of arsenic increases with each component and of course becomes more toxic, especially with contaminated water.
I am not a scientist, nor do I study soil and water samples, but I understand and want you to understand the reasons for limiting arsenic in infant rice cereal that the FDA is proposing. They found that almost 80% of rice cereal samples found in stores were 110 ppb for inorganic arsenic and just under 50% were below the 100 ppb standards (their proposed limit). In addition, they researched hundreds of other foods that infants and toddlers tend to eat and found that ALL non-rice foods were supremely lower in inorganic arsenic.
In a nutshell, they are not telling us to stop using rice cereal, but instead to be mindful of the amounts we are ingesting. It can be consumed but as with anything else...in moderation.
Rice cereal is a popular first food for infants as it is predominantly suggested by majority of pediatricians as a source of iron. However, did you know that you don’t have to use rice cereal first or even at all? In place of rice cereal, you can use oats, multi-grains and barley to name a few. The object of the game is to ensure that your child is receiving adequate amounts of iron, but not to the exclusion of other vitamins and minerals. A well balanced diet is most important and should not be made up of one type of food or food group.