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FDA Recommends Arsenic Limits in Infant Rice Cereal

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baby with spoon

The Food and Drug Administration recently proposed limits for arsenic levels in infant rice cereal. As the mother of a 5-month-old who is starting to take solids, I completely understand how nerve wracking this news is for parents! Here is a summary of the information we have and some recommendations for how to proceed with feeding your baby and keeping him or her healthy.

Why Should I Worry about Arsenic?

Arsenic is a chemical that naturally occurs in water and soil. We already have established limits for safe levels in water and apple juice, but these levels have not been studied in food products until recently. With rice, the arsenic from the ground is easily absorbed, leading to potentially high levels. The big concern is that repeated exposure to arsenic may lead to learning and cognitive difficulties in children.

For years, the recommendation has been to introduce rice cereal as the first "solid" food in a baby's diet. It has a low risk of causing allergic reactions and is generally well tolerated. Baby cereals are also fortified with iron which is important for brain development and to prevent anemia. If babies eat rice cereal as their sole form of solid food for awhile, they may end up consuming higher than recommended amounts of arsenic.

So what are parents to do? 

First, be reassured that a majority of available rice cereals already met, or were very close to meeting these new FDA limits. Second, continue feeding your baby iron-fortified cereals, including rice cereal. You may want to consider starting with an oat, barley or multigrain cereal or adding those into your baby's diet so that rice cereal isn't the only grain they eat.

Still have questions?

If you have any questions about this or about introducing solids in general, please talk to your baby's physician.