Caution on Infant Rice Cereals

Caution on Infant Rice CerealsCaution on Infant Rice Cereals

When parents first introduce solid foods to their babies, rice products are typically among the first foods offered. Choking or allergy risks are low with rice products, and they feature in many types of infant foods.

However, a new study advises caution, as it finds that infants who consume rice products have higher concentrations of arsenic in their urine, compared with those who do not eat rice products. The study - led by Margaret R. Karagas, PhD, from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire - is published in JAMA Pediatrics.

According to the study authors, the recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) for inorganic arsenic concentrations in polished white rice is 200 nanograms per gram (ng/g), and the proposed US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limit for infant rice cereal is 100 ng/g.

However, researchers say many infant rice cereals may contain inorganic arsenic concentrations that exceed these limits, reported.

Previous research suggested that arsenic exposure in utero and in early life could be linked with adverse effects on fetal growth, as well as infant and child immunity and neurodevelopment.

Researchers note that arsenic found in rice and rice products can be in either an inorganic or organic form; nearly all arsenic in drinking water is inorganic.

They say that, although the toxic effects of inorganic arsenic have been established, laboratory evidence has suggested that organic forms could also present a health risk. They add, however, that “further data are needed.”

To further investigate, Karagas and colleagues looked at how often infants ate rice products during their first year of life. In total, 759 infants born between 2011 and 2014 were included in the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study.

When the infants were 1 year old, the team assessed dietary patterns which included information on whether the infant had eaten rice cereal, white or brown rice, or foods made with rice or sweetened with brown rice syrup in the past week.

Results from the urine samples at 12 months of age showed that arsenic levels were higher in infants who ate rice or foods mixed with rice, compared with those who ate no rice.

Furthermore, among the infants who ate brown or white rice, their total urinary arsenic concentrations were twice as high as those who ate no rice.

Researchers say their results show consuming rice increases infants’ arsenic exposure, and suggest introducing regulations to reduce exposure “during this critical phase of development.” The results should give parents and regulators some food for thought.