A new study carried out by researchers from Queen’s University Belfast has found worryingly high levels of arsenic in rice cakes marketed for babies.
In 2016, the EU imposed a maximum limit on the amount of inorganic arsenic in foods in an attempt to prevent the associated health risks. Inorganic arsenic is a known carcinogen.
Dangerous Levels Of Arsenic Found In Baby Rice Foods
The new research, however, highlights the fact that little has changed and as many as 50% of baby rice foods still contain dangerous levels of inorganic arsenic.
Lead author of the study, published in the PLOS ONE journal, Professor Meharg, said: “Babies are particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of arsenic that can prevent the healthy development of a baby’s growth, IQ and immune system to name but a few.”
Exposure to inorganic arsenic is known to increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and nervous system damage. Babies are known to be particularly susceptible to the health risks associated with arsenic.
Researchers compared levels of arsenic found in urine samples of babies. They found babies who were formula fed had higher concentrations of arsenic present in their urine.
This was particularly true for babies who were fed non-dairy formulas. Babies who had started on solid foods were found to have high levels of arsenic in their urine which highlighted the link between baby rice products and exposure to arsenic.
The researchers compared the levels of arsenic found in baby products before and after the EU regulation was introduced and found, perhaps surprisingly, levels of arsenic were higher in foods manufactured after the legal limit was introduced. According to the study, 75% of the baby rice-based products tested contained more than the legal limit of arsenic.
Baby rice and baby rice crackers are popular weaning foods amongst modern parents. Rice cakes are often seen as a healthy alternative to wheat-based snacks. Arsenic is absorbed by plants as they grow and rice plants seem to absorb particularly high levels.
Professor Merhag added: “Simple measures can be taken to dramatically reduce the arsenic in these products so there is no excuse for manufacturers to be selling baby food products with such harmful levels of this carcinogenic substance.”
Researchers are calling for manufacturers to clearly label products with the arsenic levels so parents can make informed decisions about the foods they feed their babies.