The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a proposed limit on the inorganic arsenic levels in infant rice cereal. Similar to the limit set by the European Commission, the FDA's proposal includes a limit of 100 parts per billion (ppb).

Currently, majority of infant rice cereals sold in the country either meet the set limit or are close enough. Arsenic can seep into rice from natural sources or from pesticides and fertilizers. This makes infant rice cereals as a top source of arsenic exposure among infants.

"The proposed limit is a prudent and achievable step to reduce exposure to arsenic among infants," said FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition director, Susan Mayne.

What Is Arsenic?

Arsenic is an element found in the planet's crust. It is also found in soil, air and water but in very small amounts. As crops grow, they absorb arsenic from various sources.

Arsenic is not a food additive. However, it is a naturally occurring element, making it difficult to be eliminated completely.

There are two types of arsenic: organic and inorganic. When arsenic atoms combine with carbon, the resulting compound is organic, which can make drinking water safer, according to a previous study. Without carbon, the compound becomes inorganic, which is the more toxic type of the element.

Arsenic Levels In Infant Rice Cereals

Infants eat three times more rice than most adults, relative to their body weight. In earlier studies, the FDA found that infants who are 8 months old are the highest consumers of rice through infant rice cereals, which make up most of their diet.

Basis For The Proposed Limit

The FDA's data on inorganic arsenic is based on the analysis of 76 samples of infant rice cereals sold in the market. They found that 47 percent of these products sold in 2014 met the FDA's proposed limit of 100 ppb, while 78 percent was either at 110 ppb or below it.

The FDA also examined over 400 other baby food. They found that all non-rice options are below 100 ppb and can be good low-arsenic alternatives for infant diets.

Health Implications Of High Inorganic Arsenic Exposure

The FDA estimated that for every 100,000 people, inorganic arsenic exposure from rice and rice products can lead to extra four cases of bladder and lung cancers in a lifetime. The agency also discovered that this exposure can affect the child's performance on tests that gauge learning abilities.

Photo: Brad Noble | Flickr

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