InHealthy Baby, Real Food

Is the Arsenic Found in Organic Brown Rice Syrup Based Baby Formulas Dangerous?

Baby Formula

Baby Formula{See an update from Nature's One below}

A new study found that certain formulas containing organic brown rice syrup have 20-30 times more inorganic arsenic than those without the ingredient.  The levels were significantly higher than the acceptable limits set for water by the EPA.  The Dartmouth researchers said that rice takes up the natural arsenic from the soil, so brown rice syrup can have high arsenic concentrations whether the rice is grown organically or not.  Inorganic arsenic exposure through ingestion has been linked to cancer of the skin, bladder, liver, and lung.  And as you know, babies are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of toxic chemicals.

Okay, so now we know to watch carefully for food labels listing brown rice as a main ingredient.  But the researchers didn’t name the offending products, so what should parents who specifically chose organic formula do to avoid arsenic?  Instead of panicking, let’s activate those Non-toxic Ninja powers and get busy researching!

We’re going to tackle Nature’s One specifically because we’ve received the most inquiries about it by far.  We already know that Nature’s One is concerned about environmental chemicals in children’s products.  That’s clear in their choice to use organic ingredients and BPA-free containers.  Yesterday the company released a statement explaining that its California-based supplier of organic brown rice syrup uses an independent lab to test arsenic levels.  Those reports showed that arsenic was undetectable.  That’s a good thing, but we’ll be anxious to hear the results of testing Nature’s One promised to complete prior to future production too.

As for the statement they posted on Facebook, we weren’t too impressed and thought it was more defensive than factual.  Here’s why:

  • They said, “Where is the health crisis in Asian countries? Where is it in the United States? None exists.” That’s quite a bold statement.  Since we first began looking into studies on arsenic, we've been increasingly concerned. And we all know how reliable governments are at providing the people with information…right?
  • They made a broad-brush statement that the toxic form of arsenic (inorganic) is manmade.  A little more fact checking on their part would go a long way here.  According to the CDC, the inorganic and organic forms of arsenic occur naturally in the environment, with inorganic forms being most abundant. Inorganic arsenic is associated with other metals in igneous and sedimentary rocks, and it also occurs in combination with many other elements, especially oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur.  Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that is found in combination with either inorganic or organic substances to form many different compounds. Inorganic arsenic compounds are found in soils, sediments, and groundwater. These compounds occur either naturally or as a result of mining, ore smelting, and industrial use of arsenic. Organic arsenic compounds, on the other hand, are found mainly in fish and shellfish. Water sources in some parts of the United States also have higher naturally occurring levels of inorganic arsenic than other areas.

The danger lies in the fact that we're exposed to arsenic in so many ways every day.  This level of exposure cannot be safe for our children. The best way for parents to approach this situation is to follow Dr. Greene’s advice:

  • Rice should not be the primary source of calories for babies
  • Whatever rice they do get should come primarily from California and/or be adequately tested for arsenic (with technology at least able to detect 10 ppb)
  • Avoid conventional rice from countries still using arsenical pesticides

So here we are again with no standards for arsenic levels or requirements for testing of organic rice or the soil it's grown in. Maybe this new level of awareness will help change that.

UPDATE: Nature’s One posted more info about the arsenic issue on their website and will publish more specifics about testing soon too.

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