Last month researchers at Dartmouth College found worrisome amounts of
arsenic in organic brown rice syrup - a rice-based ingredient commonly
used in infant formula, cereal bars and high-energy foods. The discovery
raised awareness for the critical need to implement regulatory limits
on the carcinogen in foods.
The report, which appears in February's
Environmental Health Perspectives set out to establish the concentrations of arsenic in commercial food
products which contain organic brown syrup. To do this, the Dartmouth
College research team purchased commercial food products containing organic
brown rice syrup and compared them to like products made without rice
syrup as an ingredient.
The study found that of 17 infant milk formulas tested, two had organic
brown rice syrup as a primary ingredient. In these two formulas arsenic
levels were 20 times greater than in other formulas. Additionally, one
of the infant formulas with brown rice syrup had a total arsenic concentration
six times above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's safe drinking
water limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for total arsenic. In the two
formulas which tested positive for inorganic arsenic the results showed
a presence of arsenic of roughly 8.6 ppb and 21.4 ppb.
The study also found that of 29 cereal bars tested, some bars which used
organic brown rice syrup tested positive for two to twelve times more
arsenic than the acceptable limit.
Arsenic is a natural element that can contaminate groundwater. Currently
there are no federal restrictions in place for arsenic levels in food.
Last year, arsenic made headlines when Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of "The
Dr. Oz Show," raised concerns that about one-third of apple juice
samples that he'd tested contained arsenic levels exceeding 10 ppb.
While Oz was initially criticized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
his findings were later substantiated by a
Consumer Reports study which showed many apple and grape juice samples contain arsenic.
Currently there is no proof on the health risks of arsenic exposure in
foods and liquids, though the exposure of arsenic in drinking water has
been linked with increased risk of certain cancers, lung infections and
heart disease. Additionally, women exposed to high concentrations of arsenic
have been known to suffer miscarriages or from infertility. Families should
be aware that arsenic is present in rice-based formulas and products and
should limit their children's exposure.
Last month, new legislation in Congress attempted to establish limits for
the concentration of arsenic and lead in fruit juices.