High levels of arsenic found in a formula with a brown rice syrup base (like Nature's One). The specific formula isn't listed, but I thought this was important to post because I know a lot of folks choose brown rice syrup formulas because they don't contain the organic DHA, which some believe is made using questionable chemicals. Something new to think about!
Food Safety: U.S. Rice Serves Up
At one point during the reign of
King Cotton, farmers in the south central United States controlled boll weevils
with arsenic-based pesticides, and residual arsenic still contaminates the
soil. Today, rice paddies cover fields where cotton once grew, and a large
market basket survey published in the 1 April 2007 issue of Environmental
Science & Technology now shows that rice grown in this area contains,
on average, 1.76 times more arsenic than rice grown in California. With rice
consumption increasing steadily in the United States, high-rice diets may be of
concern, says principal investigator Andrew Meharg, chair of biogeochemistry at
the University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom.
Arkansas produces about half and
California about 20% of the total rice grown in the United States. The rest
comes from Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Missouri, and Florida. The total U.S.
rice crop for 2004 was 6.4 million metric tons, or 1.6% of total world
production, according to the USDA.
USDA data further show that U.S.
rice tends to be milled and packaged close to where it is grown. About 60% of
the rice grown in the United States is eaten here, and this figure has been
increasing by about 2–3% a year. Rice is eaten directly or processed into
breakfast cereal, rice cakes, package mixes, pet food, and beer. U.S. rice also
is exported to South America, Asia, and Europe. Meharg’s team purchased 134
varieties of rice, including brown, white, organic, polished, unpolished, and
instant, at grocery stores across Arkansas and California.
Meharg traced where the rice
varieties originated from information on the packages and by performing a
principal component analysis of selenium, cobalt, copper, and other minerals in
the grain. “This elemental profile directly relates rice to soil on which it is
grown,” says Meharg.
Total arsenic levels in the 107
south central rice samples averaged 0.30 μg/g, compared to an average of 0.17
μg/g in the 27 California samples. A white rice sample from Louisiana ranked
highest in total arsenic (0.66 μg/g), and an organic brown rice from California
ranked lowest (0.10 μg/g). Organic growing conditions, however, do not
guarantee low arsenic levels, since any rice growing in arsenic-laden soil
soaks up arsenic, says Meharg.
U.S. rice consumption averages about
12 grams daily, but Asian Americans average more than 115 grams daily; Hispanic
and black consumers also have higher-than-average rice intakes. The U.S. EPA,
which classifies inorganic arsenic as a group A human carcinogen, sets a daily
limit at 10 μg/L from drinking water (the most frequent route of exposure).
There is no U.S. standard for arsenic in food. However, Meharg calculated that
people who eat more than 115 grams of high-arsenic rice could reach or surpass
the drinking water standard.
“High-arsenic” in this instance is
based on the Louisiana sample that scored highest in arsenic content, assuming
that the arsenic content was 42% inorganic, as measured by Meharg in a study
published in the 1 August 2005 issue of Environmental Science &
Technology. Rice grown in Bangladesh, the world’s hot spot for arsenic
poisoning, contains about 80% inorganic arsenic, and people there eat 450 grams
Rice is recommended as a substitute
for wheat for people with celiac disease, a condition in which the wheat
protein gluten damages the intestinal lining and impairs absorption. Celiac
disease afflicts 1 in 133 Americans. Gluten-free diets also are promoted for
children with autistic spectrum disorders, although no clear scientific
evidence supports the use of such a diet. Estimates published in the November
2001 issue of Pediatrics put the prevalence of autistic spectrum
disorders at 6.7 children per 1,000, with 15% of these children on gluten-free
The arsenic levels in U.S. rice “are
possibly cause for concern,” says John Duxbury, a soil chemist at Cornell
University. He completed a market basket analysis of rice purchased in upstate
New York that, like Meharg’s, found high levels of arsenic in rice grown in the
south central United States. But Duxbury points out that the findings are
perhaps less straightforward than they may seem. In contrast to Meharg’s calculations,
the U.S. rice sample with the highest arsenic in Duxbury’s unpublished analysis
contained only 22% inorganic arsenic. Moreover, Duxbury’s greenhouse
experiments show that farmers could significantly reduce rice arsenic levels by
applying less water to the plants. Other researchers are designing rice plants
that absorb less arsenic.
“Until this all gets sorted out,
consumers shouldn’t be overly concerned,” Duxbury says. Nevertheless, rice
fanciers might note that both Duxbury and Meharg found basmati rice imported
from India and Pakistan and jasmine rice from Thailand to contain the least
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dj - This is great information. Thank you. I'm beginning to be concerned about the "puffs" that my son eats. He loves HappyBaby Organic Puffs and they are primarily organic brown rice flour and organic apple juice. I assume brown rice flour would have the same issues as the syrup. I couldn't find any info on the website. Sigh. So much to think about!
I have been following the development of this story quite closely as this is the brand of formula I've been supplementing with for a few months now. It's all terrifying, yet I have not stopped using it. I have read so much conflicting information - and am so unhappy about the idea of switching to a different formula with other ingredients that make my stomach turn. But I do not know who to trust - the company (of course) insists that it is safe to continue using and that their independent, 3rd party laboratory tests came back showing much lower levels than the study published (yet they will not release any quantitative data). However there is a well known toxicologist who just wrote an article and seems to think parents should avoid it at all costs and that the other chemicals in most other formulas are "better" than the levels of arsenic supposedly detected. It seems like a no brainer to some, I'm sure, but I, for one, am completely conflicted about what to do. My daughter takes her formula readily - and it smells and tastes wonderful, like vanilla. I was so happy with it and felt good knowing it was all organic and had minimal "stuff" in it - and now this?! What would you all do?
Thanks, kcl... I have tried other, herbal remedies for my milk supply but it's only mildly helped. I thought about trying domperidone but some of the contraindications and s/e made us decide it would not be the best thing for me to do. And yes, I even contacted a milk bank but my daughter was denied due to her age and that fact that she was full term and healthy. Apparently supplies are very limited and they reserve that milk for only the neediest babies.
I'm glad you made the comment about posting the data. The company just said they had their product tested and they were not trying to or intending to publish any articles about it. The study that was published did in fact have data and it came from some researchers at Dartmouth...
I can't begin to tell you how many hours I've sat here, poring over websites and information trying to make an informed decision. The reason so many people love this formula is because of how truly natural it is and the positive effects it seems to have on our babies. At least, no adverse reactions like some experience with other formulas. Of course the saying "too good to be true" seems to apply here. It's sickening. How I wish I could provide my daughter with all the breast milk she needs! :(
I'm afraid that for the next two and a half months, I either need to switch formulas or continue using this one with the hopes and prayers that this is all just exacerbated media hype, etc. It's a tough call. Thank you for your feedback!!
This isn't an endorsement or attempt to minimize any parents concern but consider that brown rice syrup in this instance isn't being eaten straight out of the jar. It is an added ingredient and the levels in the product will reflect that as the concentration is spread over the entire product. Look at how far down the list the BRS occurs if it isn't in the top three then it isn't a main ingredient and in many products with concerns about added sugar the amt can be less than 2%. Do the studies reflect levels in the actual product or in the brand of rice syrup used to sweeten it? With the formulas BRS is often found in the top three while with other food products it is further down the list.