Dartmouth College researchers have found arsenic in commercially available organic brown rice syrups – and the products that contain them. The researchers found that an organic infant milk formula containing the syrup as a primary ingredient had total arsenic concentrations up to six times the EPA safe drinking water limit.
The study, Arsenic, Organic Foods, and Brown Rice Syrup, published by the National Institute of Environmental Health’s Environmental Health Perspectives, said that infants and young children are especially vulnerable, since their dietary arsenic exposure from the products, per kilogram of body weight, is two to three times higher than that of adults.
Dartmouth researchers point out that there are currently no U.S. regulations applicable to arsenic in food, and call for regulatory limits. They tested 17 infant formulas, 29 cereal bars and three energy shots available in local stores.
The arsenic concentrations in the two infant formulas that listed organic brown rice syrup as the primary ingredient (one dairy-based and one soy-based) were more than 20 times the arsenic concentrations in formulas tested that did not contain any such syrup, the report said.
Cereal bars and high energy foods containing the syrup also had higher arsenic concentrations than equivalent products that did not contain the syrup, the Dartmouth report said.
Brown rice syrup is used as a sweetener in organic food products as an alternative to high fructose corn syrup.
An investigation in November 2011 from Consumer Reports found levels of arsenic in apple juice and grape juice that exceeded the drinking water standard, and the organization called for government standards to limit consumers’ exposure to the toxin.
According to the EPA website, arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver, and prostate. EPA sets the arsenic standard for drinking water at .010 parts per million (10 parts per billion) with a goal to achieve 0 ppm in drinking water supplies.
The EPA lists erosion of natural deposits, runoff from orchards, and runoff from glass and electronic production wastes as potential methods in which water supplies become tainted.
The agency recently ordered an Arizona water company to reduce arsenic levels in its drinking water system or face penalties of up to $37,500 per day for each violation.
Picture credit: nerissa’s ring