FDA Proposes Limit For Inorganic Arsenic In Infant Rice Cereal

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While there are currently no federal limits on arsenic levels in most food, the Food and Drug Administration announced today that it’s taking steps aimed at reducing inorganic arsenic in at least one product, infant rice cereal.

About 3.5 years after our esteemed colleagues at Consumer Reports found arsenic in a wide range of rice products, and 2.5 years after the FDA’s own tests essentially confirmed the CR study’s findings, the agency released a draft guidance to the industry that proposes an action level, or limit, of 100 parts per billion (ppb) for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal.

The FDA says this is parallel to the level set by the European Commission for rice that’s intended for the production of food for infants and young children. It’s different because the EC standard addresses the rice itself, while the FDA’s proposed guidance concerns levels for inorganic arsenic in rice cereal products, the FDA notes.

According to the agency, the majority of infant rice cereal currently on the market either meets, or is close to, the proposed limit.

“Our actions are driven by our duty to protect the public health and our careful analysis of the data and the emerging science,” said Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “The proposed limit is a prudent and achievable step to reduce exposure to arsenic among infants.”

This is all well and good of course, if you’re an infant, but what about all those other rice products?

Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., executive director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety & Sustainability Center, weighed in on the FDA’s announcement, and asks that very question.

“While Consumer Reports is pleased to see that the FDA has finally proposed a limit on arsenic in infant rice cereal, and it is close to the level we recommended more than three years ago, we remain concerned that so many other rice-based products consumed by children and adults remain without any standards at all,” Rangan said, noting that it’s particularly true of children’s ready-to-eat cereals.
“We believe the FDA can act swiftly to protect public health and set levels on these products based on the risk the agency has acknowledged in its announcement today, and we intend to continue to push them on behalf of consumers to do so,” Rangan said in a statement. “In the meantime, we continue to advise that infants and children diversify their diets and focus on alternatives to rice.”

In the meantime, if you’re worried about arsenic in rice, you can choose to limit how much rice you consume each week just to be safe.

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