The U.S. FDA said on April 1 it was taking steps to cut inorganic arsenic levels in infant rice cereal, a primary source of arsenic exposure in infants.
Exposure to inorganic arsenic in infants and pregnant women can result in decreased performance by children on developmental tests that measure learning.
The FDA is proposing a limit of 100 parts per billion (ppb) in the cereal, in line with the level set by the European Commission for rice intended for infants and young children. Agency said its tests found that most cereals on the market either meet or are close to the proposed level.
According to FDA, it was not recommending that the general population change their current rice consumption patterns, but was offering targeted information for pregnant women and infants to help reduce exposure.
Infant rice cereal products made by Nestle SA’s unit Gerber already meet the limit proposed by the FDA, Wendy Johnson-Askew, a spokeswoman for the food products giant, said in an email.
Other manufacturers including Abbott Laboratories and Kraft Heinz Co. did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Influential consumer products magazine Consumer Reports urged the U.S. in 2012 to set limits for arsenic in rice after tests on more than 60 popular products showed that most contained inorganic arsenic.
Consumer Reports said on April 1 that it welcomed the proposed limit, but remained “concerned that so many other rice-based products consumed by children and adults remain without any standards at all.” The magazine will continue to push the FDA to set levels for these products, especially ready-to-eat cereal for children.
Arsenic exists in two forms, naturally occurring organic and inorganic, which is often used in feed for poultry and occasionally hogs to prevent disease.
Waste from those animals can contaminate fields and waterways when it is used as fertilizer. As a result, arsenic can be found in rice, fruit, vegetables, and seafood—all of which are considered healthy.
Exposure to inorganic arsenic in rice and rice products causes an additional four cases of lung and bladder cancer over the lifetime of every 100,000 people in the U.S., the FDA said. These cases would account for far less than 1 percent of the nation’s total.
The proposed limit is open for public comment for 90 days.
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