Rice cereal is a staple baby food that could help the growth and development of your little ones. But when babies are overexposed to a certain substance found in these products, the result may be adverse, experts said.

Now, federal health regulators are taking steps to limit the levels of a potentially harmful component found in infant cereal, in hopes of protecting millions of infants from unhealthy exposure.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday announced that levels of inorganic arsenic in baby oatmeal will be reduced to 100 parts per billion (ppb), parallel to the level set by the European Commission (EC).

The toxic form of inorganic arsenic is long considered as a substance that can cause cancer. Traces of arsenic is absorbed by most food crops such as rice, grains, fruits, and vegetables.

This year, an FDA study found that relatively high levels of the chemical during pregnancy is connected to negative pregnancy outcomes.

Researchers also found that arsenic exposure may lead to a decline in a child's learning and cognitive test performance.

Fortunately, another testing of 76 baby oatmeal samples revealed that majority of the products in the market is close to the proposed limit, the FDA said.

Food safety expert Susan Mayne said the action level is an achievable and prudent way to reduce arsenic exposure among babies.

"Our actions are driven by our duty to protect the public health and our careful analysis of the data and the emerging science," said Mayne.

Guidelines For Mothers And Pregnant Women

Babies consume thrice more rice than adults do. At eight months old, rice cereal is often the main course of a baby's diet.

With that in mind, the FDA offered advice to pregnant women, mothers, fathers, and caregivers about the appropriate nutrition for babies. The guidelines are consistent with the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

1. Feed your baby with cereals that are fortified with iron to ensure that he or she is getting enough of this essential nutrient.

2. Iron-fortified rice cereal is a good source of nutrients for babies, but it should not be limited to that, and should not be the first source. Other sources include barley, oat, and multigrain.

3. Toddlers should receive a well-balanced diet that contains a wide variety of grains.

4. Pregnant women must eat a variety of healthy food such as wheat, barley, and oats for nutrition.

5. Studies suggest that putting excess water (from six to 10 parts water to one part rice), and draining it can reduce the inorganic arsenic content of rice from 40 to 60 percent. It is better to be cautious, however, as this method could also take away other nutrients.

The guidelines do not indicate that rice cereal must be completely removed from a baby's diet. Dr. Jennifer Lowry of Children's Mercy Hospital said rice is an important food for infants.

"Don't only eat rice," added Lowry. "Eat other grains in addition to rice, and eat other grains first."

Other Things You Must Know About Inorganic Arsenic In Rice And Cereals

The element Arsenic is found in the Earth's crust and is present in tiny amounts of water, air, and soil. Crops absorb arsenic during growth, allowing the element to get into beverages and food.

Although arsenic is not an additive or a vital ingredient, it cannot be completely eradicated from the food supply.

Inorganic arsenic is called so because it contains no carbon. Rice has become a leading dietary source of this particular substance. The FDA said the reason for this is that rice is ubiquitous.

This piqued the interest of the agency, and in 2013, they tested levels of the substance among common types of rice grain and rice-based products.

While the FDA advises caution for pregnant women and for feeding babies, the agency did not find any evidence or health basis to recommend that the public should change its rice consumption based on arsenic levels. The FDA's general advice is to eat a well-balanced diet that is not based on any one food.

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