A report released today by Healthy Babies Bright Futures, Center for Environmental Health, and a coalition of partner organizations found that levels of toxic arsenic in infant rice cereal are six times higher than in other infant cereals. Scientists, health professionals, and advocates are calling for immediate action by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and cereal manufacturers to help protect children from unnecessary exposure to arsenic – a known carcinogen. Parents are urged to choose safer alternatives to infant rice cereals.
Arsenic is known to cause cancer in humans but also poses risks to the developing brain. It has been linked to permanent IQ loss for children exposed in utero or during the first years of life. Rice absorbs and concentrates 10 times more arsenic from the environment than other cereal grains. Infant rice cereal is the top dietary source of arsenic for babies under the age of one. HBBF tested all cereals in the study for inorganic arsenic, the contaminant’s most toxic form.
“Arsenic is toxic in tiny amounts,” said Caroline Cox, Research Director at the Center for Environmental Health. “Why is it still in baby cereals at these high levels?”
The study – the first ever testing of new infant cereals – tested 105 cereals covering a wide range of cereal types and brands, including Gerber, Earth’s Best, and Beech-Nut. Over the last four years, cereal manufacturers have decreased arsenic levels in their infant rice cereals on average from 103 parts per billion (ppb) to 85 ppb. However, this decrease is NOT enough to protect infants.
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