Arsenic Poisoning In Babies Due To Rice-Based Baby Foods, Scientists Warn Parents

First Posted: May 05, 2017 05:10 AM EDT

Rice is one such natural food item that is known to possess comparatively more amounts of arsenic. It has also been observed that rice-based cereals and baby food items also contain illegal amounts of inorganic arsenic.

Last year, the European Union specifically addressed the issue and notified all baby food manufacturers to pay heed to the arsenic levels present in the food items manufactured by them. A subsequent study made by Plant and Soil Sciences expert Professor Andy Meharg from Queen's revealed that the levels of arsenic pre- and post-EU notification remained almost similar.

Arsenic is a carcinogenic element that is also associated with the occurrence of many chronic disease and neurodegenerative disorders. These effects are further amplified in the case of small children. Children are inherently sensitive. They possess an immune system that is still in its developmental stage.

Furthermore, based on body weights, children consume more amount of food than adults. This implies that the process of bio-accumulation in children is faster than that of adults. Due to these reasons, children are more prone to arsenic-associated developmental disorders, neurological and cardiological problems, reported.

According to a recent publication in the PLOS ONE journal, biochemical analysis of urine samples of infants, both breast-fed and formula-fed, indicated that the level of arsenic in infants after weaning was significantly high. Furthermore, infants those who were weaned with non-dairy milk products such as rice-fortified formula powders due to dairy or gluten intolerance had higher levels of arsenic exposure. The calculations made on the basis of the data obtained from the experiment indicated that the level of exposure to arsenic in children fed with rice-based baby foods was almost five times high.

A recently published Independent report highlighted the fact that most rice milk packets carry a statutory warning that the product is not suitable for children below five years of age. However, other rice-based food products like crisps, cereals and porridge, among others, do not follow such specifications. Due to this reason, parents remain ignorant of the possible health risks associated with their ingestion.

Experts are of the opinion that simple methods like soaking the rice overnight before it is used to manufacture baby products can help in reducing the concentration of arsenic in them. Commercial baby food manufacturers should be encouraged to adopt these methods on a large scale. Furthermore, parents should also consider feeding their children other nutritious alternatives such as oats porridge instead of rice porridge.

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