Arsenic Still Found In Infant Rice Products Interview with:

Dr. Antonio J. Signes-Pastor, PhD Institute for Global Food Security Queen’s University Belfast Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, Department of Epidemiology, Geisel School of Medicine Dartmouth College Lebanon, NH

Dr. Signes-Pastor

Dr. Antonio J. Signes-Pastor, PhD
Institute for Global Food Security
Queen’s University Belfast
Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom,
Department of Epidemiology, Geisel School of Medicine
Dartmouth College Lebanon, NH What is the background for this study?

Response: Inorganic arsenic is a human carcinogen, which has also been associated with several adverse health effects including neurological, cardiovascular, respiratory, and metabolic outcomes. Early life exposure is of particular concern since it may adversely impact on lifetime health outcomes. If low inorganic arsenic drinking water is available the main source of exposure is the diet, especially rice and rice-based products, which are widely used during weaning and to feed infants and young children. In order to reduce exposure, the EU has recently regulated (1st January 2016) the inorganic arsenic maximum level of 0.1 mg/kg for rice products addressed to infants and young children. This level is also under consideration by the US FDA. What are the main findings?

Response: Little changes were found in the inorganic arsenic concentration in baby rice, rice crackers, and rice cereals purchased after the EU inorganic arsenic standard enforcement compared to the same rice-based products previously tested in 2014. Nearly 3Ž4 of the baby rice and rice crackers bought in the EU market and labeled specifically for infants and young children exceeded the EU inorganic arsenic standard of 0.1 mg/kg (73%; n = 42), and thus would be illegal. When including rice cereals in the calculations, packaging of which does not state that they are specifically for infants or young children, more than half of the rice-based products dataset analyzed in this study exceeded the maximum inorganic arsenic standard (56; n = 73).

Urinary samples arsenic concentration from formula fed infants was higher than that for breastfed or partially breastfed infants. Urinary samples arsenic concentration from infants post-weaning, using rice-based products under the EU inorganic arsenic regulation as part of their weaning diet, was higher than that found in the paired urine samples before weaning. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The recent maximum inorganic arsenic standard of 0.1mg/kg in rice destined for the production of food for infants and young children has had little impact on the inorganic arsenic level in rice-based products such baby rice, rice cereals, and rice crackers. The incorporation of these products as part of infants weaning diet increases the inorganic arsenic exposure, which may adversely impact lifetime health outcomes. The use of formula, especially non-dairy formula, to feed infants before weaning was associated with an increase of inorganic arsenic exposure compared to those breastfed. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Infants and young children are the most susceptible subpopulation to the inorganic arsenic toxic effects and thus early life inorganic arsenic exposure has to be reduced. More studies focused on the association between rice products dietary arsenic exposure during childhood and lifelong adverse health outcomes are needed. Further efforts are required to provide rice and rice-based products with low inorganic arsenic content, especially those consumed by infants and young children. A novel approach to processing rice based on the percolating near boiling water methodology has been recently reported claiming an inorganic arsenic reduction of about 85%. This method has also been tested with rice bran, a nutritious byproduct of rice milling widely used to fortify health/organic/whole-meal foodstuffs with extremely high inorganic arsenic content reaching up to 1 mg/kg, with a reduction of inorganic arsenic of up to 96%. This methodology of inorganic arsenic removal in rice and rice bran can be applied from home to an industrial setting (Carey, Jiujin, Gomes Farias, & Meharg, 2015; Signes-Pastor, Carey, & Meharg, 2017).

Carey, M., Jiujin, X., Gomes Farias, J., & Meharg, A. A. (2015). Rethinking Rice Preparation for Highly Efficient Removal of Inorganic Arsenic Using Percolating Cooking Water. Plos One, 10(7), e0131608.
Signes-Pastor, A. J., Carey, M., & Meharg, A. A. (2017). Inorganic arsenic removal in rice bran by percolating cooking water. Food Chemistry, 234, 76–80. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Levels of infants’ urinary arsenic metabolites related to formula feeding and weaning with rice products exceeding the EU inorganic arsenic standard
Antonio J. Signes-Pastor ,Jayne V. Woodside,Paul McMullan,Karen Mullan,Manus Carey,Margaret R. Karagas, Andrew A. Meharg
PLOS Published: May 4, 2017

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on May 5, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD