We had quite the whirlwind last week over the study that Dartmouth released on February 16th about elevated levels of arsenic in some formula and food products containing organic brown rice syrup. I wanted to address it here even though it’s been addressed elsewhere last week. I wanted to provide a list of the facts and I want to also provide some mild recommendations on what to do if you’re concerned… and my guess is you are if your baby formula uses organic brown rice syrup.
In a nutshell, researchers tested a slew of baby formulas, cereal bars, energy bars and energy gels (used by endurance athletes) for arsenic and uncovered some interesting results that linked the use of organic brown rice syrup, rice flour, rice grain or rice flakes as the source of the elevated levels.
From a consumer reports article, which sums up the results for us:
- Two of 17 infant formulas tested listed organic brown rice syrup as the primary ingredient. One had a total arsenic concentration that was six times the federal limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for total arsenic in bottled or public drinking water. This is particularly worrisome for babies because they are especially vulnerable to arsenic’s toxic effects due to their small size and the corresponding arsenic consumption per pound of body weight.
- Twenty-two of 29 cereal bars or energy bars tested listed at least one of these four rice products—organic brown rice syrup, rice flour, rice grain or rice flakes – among the top five ingredients. The seven other bars were among the lowest in total arsenic, ranging from 8 to 27 ppb, while those containing syrup or other forms of rice ranged from 23 to 128 ppb.
- Tests of high-energy products known as “energy shots” that are used by endurance athletes and others showed that one of the three gel-like blocks contained 84 ppb of total arsenic, while the other two contained 171 ppb.
To put this into perspective, the EPA has set a limit of 10ppb for inorganic arsenic in drinking water. (Thank you Dr Greene for that statistic). The EPA had also set a “level of concern” at 23 ppb for fruit juices.
The report does not name any brands. Which REALLY irritates me when they do that. Anyhow, two formulas that were tested list organic brown rice syrup as a primary ingredient – and to my knowledge there is only one brand who uses it: Nature’s One. SO of course their phones were ringing off the hook and their Facebook page was bombarded.
Historically, Nature’s One has been one of the more conscientious brands of baby formula on the market. Testing for perchlorate (rocket fuel), and other environmental chemicals, using organic ingredients and they don’t use the hexane extraction method of obtaining DHA for their formulas. This is all good news for moms using formula. So it pains me to see them under such rapid fire scrutiny.
Nature’s One is releasing some information about their testing soon and will publish that information on their website.
What Do I Do Now???
I know many moms were outraged and trying to figure out what to do. Dr Greene’s response was not to panic but recommended “that rice not be the primary source of calories for babies” so this puts us back to square one. Nature’s One will release their independent test results soon but they hold firm that they have tested their organic brown rice syrups and they all come back as having undetectable amounts in lab tests.
If you want to change your formula to a non organic brown rice based formula, please check out my Formula Analysis to decide what might be a better alternative. I’d love to have the perfect answer for you when it comes to this but I don’t.
I would recommend checking the ingredients lists on your organic cereal bars or foods and to limit how much of these products your kids eat. I know many moms rely on rice milk or rice based products for kids with allergies… if this is you, please contact the brand manufacturers of the products you consume regularly and ask them:
1. Where their rice syrup comes from (apparently if it comes from California this is better.. something about the arsenic pesticides were used less in that area).
2. Ask if they test for arsenic with technology at least able to detect 10 ppb (parts per billion)