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Beech-Nut infant rice cereal recalled over arsenic levels

Beech-Nut infant rice cereal recalled over arsenic levels
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Baby food company Beech-Nut Nutrition Co. announced this week that it was voluntarily recalling some of its infant rice cereal after samples were found to have higher-than-normal levels of arsenic. 

In a notice published on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website, Beech-Nut said the recall was a “result of a routine sampling program by the State of Alaska which found that samples from that production lot of Beech-Nut Stage 1, Single Grain Rice Cereal tested above the guidance level for naturally occurring inorganic arsenic set by the FDA in August 2020.” 

The company noted, however, that the rice flour used had “been tested and confirmed as being below the FDA guidance level for inorganic arsenic.”

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“FDA has recognized that trace elements such as these are widely present in the environment, including water, soil and food; and has also stated that exposure to elevated levels of naturally occurring inorganic arsenic can pose a health hazard to young children,” Beech-Nut said in its announcement.

The company revealed that in addition to the recall, it had decided to exit the market for its Single Grain Rice Cereal, citing concerns about “the ability to consistently obtain rice flour well-below the FDA guidance level and Beech-Nut specifications for naturally occurring inorganic arsenic.” 

Jason Jacobs, Beech-Nut’s vice president of food safety and quality, said in a statement, “The safety of infants and children is Beech-Nut's top priority.”

The company in its notice specified that no illnesses have been reported thus far in connection with the recalled product, and other Beech-Nut products are not impacted by the recall. 

The announcement comes after a February congressional report that found “dangerously high” levels of heavy metals in some baby foods spurred a series of lawsuits against Beech-Nut and other companies.  

The House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy in its study indicated that arsenic, lead and cadmium were present in baby foods manufactured by Beech-Nut, as well as Nurture Inc., which sells baby food under the brand HappyBABY, Hain Celestial and Gerber. 

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Weeks later, a class action lawsuit was filed in New York against Beech-Nut, accusing the company that labels its products "organic" and "natural” of "fail[ing] to warn consumers about the presence of heavy metals in its baby foods" including arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium.

A Beech-Nut spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill at the time that its products “are and have always been safe and nutritious," but that it does not “comment on specific, pending litigation.” 

"We look forward to continuing to work with the FDA, in partnership with the Baby Food Council, on science-based standards that food suppliers can implement across our industry. Beech-Nut is committed to continually refining its internal standards and testing processes as technology and knowledge develops," the spokesperson added.