Warning

Many people may be shocked to learn that there are traces of arsenic absorbed into seemingly-healthy foods like vegetables, fruits and grains. Rice has a tendency to absorb more arsenic than other foods. The impact of inorganic arsenic on babies has become a particular concern for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This is the more toxic, carcinogenic form of arsenic.

Infants, relative to their size, eat about triple the amount of rice as adults. For many infants, rice cereal is a key part of their diet. The FDA has found that arsenic exposure can decrease a child's cognitive and learning skills.

FDA Proposes Limits on Arsenic in Baby Cereal

The FDA has now proposed limiting the amount of inorganic arsenic that can be included in baby cereal to 100 parts per billion. One of -- if not the -- leading names in baby foods, Gerber, says that its products already meet the proposed guidelines. Gerber issued a statement saying, "We have ... some of the lowest levels of this element in U.S. grown rice."

One doctor who works for Consumer Reports says that the proposed FDA guidelines don't go far enough. The doctor notes they don't address other rice products, such as ready-to-eat cereals, often consumed by children.

The proposed FDA limits still have to be approved. In the meantime, pediatricians and the FDA have some advice for protecting their infants from too much arsenic consumption. For example, feed your baby barley, oat and multigrain cereals instead of, or in addition to, rice-based cereals.

Caution Is Advised for Pregnant Women

The FDA also cautions pregnant women against eating too much rice. The consumption of inorganic arsenic has been linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes. Just as with infants, pregnant women are advised to eat a variety of grains, including barley, oats and wheat, as part of a healthy diet.

It remains to be seen whether the FDA's proposed guidelines are approved. However, regardless of the outcome, it's essential for consumers to know the potential dangers associated with the food they consume, and particularly with the food they feed their children. While some illnesses and other harmful effects are more easily traceable than others, when people believe that they or a loved one have been harmed by something in their food, it may be worth seeking legal guidance. Doing so can hold food producers accountable and perhaps save other consumers from harm or worse.

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