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Because rice, even organic rice, often absorbs arsenic from soil, products sweetened with brown rice syrup may contain worrisome levels of this toxic, potentially carcinogenic mineral. Researchers at Dartmouth have found that some baby formulas, cereal bars and energy shots do, in fact, contain problematic amounts of arsenic.
Of the 17 infant milk formulas tested at Dartmouth, only two listed organic brown rice syrup as the primary ingredient. These two formulas, one dairy-based and one soy-based, were extremely high in arsenic, more than 20 times greater than other formulas. The amount of inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form, averaged 8.6 ppb for the dairy-based formula and 21.4 ppb for the soy formula.
This could be dangerous. These concentrations are comparable to, or greater than, the current U.S. drinking water limit of 10 ppb, and that limit does not account for the low body weight of infants and the corresponding increase in arsenic consumption per pound of body weight.
The Dartmouth researchers also tested 29 cereal bars and three flavors of an energy product obtained from a supermarket. Twenty-two of the bars listed at least one of four rice products — organic brown rice syrup, rice flour, rice grain and rice flakes — in the first five ingredients. The cereal bars ranged from 8 to 128 ppb in total arsenic. Those that had no rice ingredients were lowest in arsenic and ranged from 8 to 27 ppb, while those that did contain a rice ingredient ranged from 23 to 128 ppb total arsenic.
The Dartmouth scientists conclude that: “There is an urgent need for regulatory limits on arsenic in food.”