Worrisome levels of arsenic have been found in two infant formulas that contain organic brown rice syrup as a main ingredient, researchers reported Thursday. Arsenic was also found in some cereal bars that contain organic brown rice syrup.
The toxic element is a known contaminate found in rice because the crop absorbs arsenic from soil. According to the authors of the study, from Dartmouth College, the type found in the food products has been identified as a human carcinogen. Arsenic can also cause skin, lung and intestinal irritation as well as miscarriage and infertility.
The paper, published online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found arsenic in two of 17 infant formulas tested. One sample had an arsenic concentration six times the federal limit for arsenic allowable in bottled water or drinking water. In infants, such a level could be toxic because they consume more per pound of body weight compared to adults.
Among 29 cereal bars tested, those containing syrup or other forms of rice had arsenic levels two to 12 times higher than the allowable limit.
There are no regulations for arsenic in food, said the authors, led by Brian Jackson of Dartmouth's Superfund Research Program. The need for such regulations is "urgent," they said. Legislation was introduced in Congress last week to establish limits for arsenic and lead in fruit juice.
In the meantime, parents may want to avoid infant formula containing brown rice syrup as the main ingredient, Jackson said. Formulas containing added rice starch did not contain arsenic, the study showed. Consumers should limit their consumption of other foods known to contain arsenic.