Inorganic arsenic, commonly used in the past in pesticides and still used to treat timber, is considered more toxic than organic forms. The US government put a stop to the use of inorganic arsenical pesticides in the 1980s. However, inorganic arsenic residues still remains in the soil. Plus, Consumer Reports further suggests “other arsenical ingredients in animal feed to prevent disease and promote growth are still permitted,” and inorganic arsenic may lace “fertilizer made from poultry waste.”
Furthermore, health experts are concerned about arsenic exposure in childhood – even in utero. For example, a developing fetus may be exposed to arsenic in the pregnant mother’s environment (arsenic crosses the placenta). Research suggests that chronic childhood arsenic exposure may be associated with cognitive impairment (lower IQ scores) and an increased risk of illness early in life.
It is recommended that you avoid offering rice and rice products as a staple to kids under age five. Other countries have made similar recommendations, including the UK Food Standards Agency which advises that infants and young children should not consume rice milk as a substitute for cow’s milk, breast milk, or infant formula. Although we have more to learn about arsenic’s effect on our health when in the food supply, why take a risk on the health of your child, especially since side effects may not be apparent for years.
Food companies have not been required by the FDA to have arsenic abatement as part of food processing. What is needed is a call to action to stimulate innovation and reward companies that invest in healthier products.
Currently the FDA still decides against stricter regulations. The FDA states that they will wait until their full analysis is complete before determining “whether or not to issue additional recommendations." FDA Commissioner Margaret A Hamburg, M.D. provided further comment on the issue: “We understand that consumers are concerned about this matter. FDA is committed to ensuring that we understand the extent to which substances such as arsenic are present in our foods, what risks they may pose, whether these risks can be minimized, and to sharing what we know.”
If you regularly consume rice and rice products, consider these suggestions and alternatives: