What we feed our babies matters. No question one delightful and soulful part of raising our babies is introducing the world of solid food. I mean really, it’s hard to describe a competing parenting moment with feeding our children healthy food, at any age. For decades, rice cereal as a first food seemed to make sense but major groups reporting out on only feeding rice with caution. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently proposed new limits for inorganic arsenic in rice cereals (think: potentially cancer causing toxin that is increasingly known to cause harm early in life). Many families start their transition from breastmilk/formula to solid foods by adding in rice cereal. Doing so is convenient, makes for great consistency, but rice cereal is a leading source of exposure to the toxin. Arsenic is an abundant element in the earth’s crust, coming in two forms (organic, inorganic), the inorganic form being tied to bad health outcomes. The reason rice has more arsenic compared with other foods is how rice is grown (in watery fields) and its unique tendency as a crop to absorb the arsenic while growing. Here’s what the World Health Organization (WHO) says about inorganic arsenic:
- Arsenic is naturally present at high levels in the groundwater of a number of countries.
- Arsenic is highly toxic in its inorganic form.
- Contaminated water used for drinking, food preparation and irrigation of food crops poses the greatest threat to public health from arsenic.
- Long-term exposure to arsenic from drinking-water and food can cause cancer and skin lesions. It has also been associated with developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity and diabetes.
- The most important action in affected communities is the prevention of further exposure to arsenic by provision of a safe water supply.
Why are infants particularly vulnerable to arsenic in rice? The FDA says: “relative to body weight, rice intake for infants is about three times greater than for adults.” In their evaluation, they tested 76 different rice cereals and found that 1/2 exceeded the inorganic arsenic limit. Some companies and products are advertising for safety — for example Gerber rice cereal manufacturers announced that their products already meet the FDA’s proposed limits but it will be with time that the food source is changed for good in all products packaged and marketed for babies.
Knowledge about what exactly rice cereal does to babies and their developing bodies continues to unfold but infancy is a time of profound growth and development. Also a time we really want to limit toxins that could change risks. Researchers in JAMA Pediatrics explain: Read full post »