FDA proposes new arsenic limit in infant cereal

FDA proposes new arsenic limit in infant cereal

The Obama administration on Friday proposed new limits on the amount of inorganic arsenic allowed in infant rice cereal.

Rice cereal has become the leading source of arsenic exposure in infants, and studies have shown that exposure can have affect brain development, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said.

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While arsenic is naturally found in soil and water, inorganic arsenic comes from fertilizers and pesticides. Because the rice plant and grain itself tend to absorb more arsenic from the environment than other crops as they grow, the agency said it has higher levels of inorganic arsenic than other foods.

In draft guidance Friday, the FDA proposed limiting inorganic arsenic to 100 parts per billion for rice that will be used to produce food for infants and young children.

“Our actions are driven by our duty to protect the public health and our careful analysis of the data and the emerging science,” Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in a news release. “The proposed limit is a prudent and achievable step to reduce exposure to arsenic among infants.”

The agency recommends babies be fed iron-fortified cereals and toddlers have a well-balanced diet that includes oat, barley and multi-grains.

Pregnant women can also be at risk of exposing their child to inorganic arsenic. The FDA recommends pregnant women consume a variety of foods.

The FDA said it sampled 76 infant rice cereals in 2014 and nearly half, 47 percent, met the agency’s proposed action level of 100 ppb of inorganic arsenic. A large majority, 78 percent, were at or below 110 ppb of inorganic arsenic.

The agency will accept comments on its proposal for the next 90 days.