Having looked at this topic I was surprised by what I read, and not in a good way. This is not an attempt to scare anyone and I am not writing to argue, persuade or instruct (those good old G.C.S.E Days) Neither do I profess to be any expert in food, nutrition or babies. I am simply a concerned Mother of 2 who would like to share with anyone who has children or is interested in this topic what I have read. Consequently, should you choose to follow any of the steps I have taken please be aware that you do so at your own risk.
As some of you are aware, have recently started a journey to wean my daughter onto solid food. My initial plan as I was starting early was to start with a common food given to babies in the early stages of weaning, Baby rice. A simple, safe, plain tasting food which should be relatively easy to introduce and should not really cause any health issues for baby later on in life.Boy was I wrong!!!
I purchased baby rice for my daughter some time ago and could not wait to get started. Please note that while I have place images of the baby rice I have purchased in this post. This is not an attempt to name and shame. Baby rice is a common first food given to babies and I do believe that most brands that sell baby food do in fact have a baby rice product. So I guess your all thinking, "what's the issue" right?
Well.... a number of researchers have deduced that it may not be safe to feed baby rice cereals and/or rice based products too babies due to the levels of arsenic contained therein.
How Does It Occur?
Arsenic is a naturally occurring substance that presents itself in the earth. Arsenic that occurs can either be organic or inorganic. Inorganic arsenic is what we are concerned with From my research it is not intirely clear whether inorganic arsenic is purely natural or whether it is caused by Human intervention by spraying pesticides or through use of chemicals. Some articles say that it is contained in sedimentary rock others say it is caused by pesticides. Nevertheless, the fact that it is present t the issue at hand.
How Does It Get Into Rice?
As stated previously arsenic is a naturally occurring substance so its already in the soil. Plants absorb there nutrients from the soil and in the process inorganic arsenic is also taken into the plant. Rice happens to be a plant that absorbs high levels of inorganic arsenic and therein lies part of the problem. I have also read that there are some schools of thought suggesting that pesticides at the very least, boost the levels of arsenic contained in the plant.
So Whats The Big Deal?
According to the U.S Food and Drug Administration (hereafter referred to as the FDA) at this current time, arsenic exposure over a long period of time has been linked to higher rates of lung, bladder and skin cancers, not to mention heart disease.
The jury appears to be out on this topic and no-one gives a definitive answer on whether we should continue to feed baby rice to our babies and if so what is a safe level to give. The FDA are continuing to do research which is good as it enables us to make a more informed decision, they also have a good Q&A page on their website which I will post a link to. Being that I am in the UK I also checked the Food Standards Agency website for any information I could find. They appear to have taken a more relaxed approach advising that on the samples they have tested, levels of inorganic arsenic does not give concern for the health of infants. The fact that both agencies are taking different stances is slightly worrying, but it looks as though the research carried out by the Food Standards Agency was in 2006 so perhaps more research is ongoing??
Based on what I have read I have amended my original plan for weaning. As you may note, despite the fact that I did purchase baby rice, I have been giving my daughter organic fruit and veg purees that I have made. Do I trust that the levels of inorganic arsenic in rice are no cause fr concern - No and even if I were to trust that it is no cause for concern at which point should it become a concern, 1 feed a day; 2 feeds a day; every other day; I have read that 2 feeds of baby rice a day could cause a risk of cancer that is twice the level of risk that is considered acceptable. I have therefor decided that until I know more I will not be giving my baby, rice cereal.
I am by no means, recommending that everyone should take this decision, but I would definitely recommend that you do your own research into the matter if you are concerned.
Food Standards Agency - Survey of metals in weaning foods and formulae for infants – additional information on inorganic arsenic and methyl mercury levels