Baby rice cereal and beech nuts recalled due to high arsenic levels – CBS Boston
(CNN) – Beech-Nut Nutrition voluntarily recalled an infant rice cereal on Tuesday because the product exceeds a U.S. Food and Drug Administration limit of 100 parts per billion arsenic. The company also announced that it will no longer sell baby rice cereal.
Studies have shown that even low levels of arsenic exposure can impact a baby’s neurological development.
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The only product recalled at this time is Beech-Nut Single Grain Rice (UPC code number 52200034705), which has an expiration date of 01MAI2022 and product codes 103470XXXX and 093470XXXX.
“No disease related to these product codes has been reported to date, and no other production dates of rice cereals or beech and nut products are affected by this recall”, the company said in a statement posted on its website.
“Beech-Nut has also decided to exit the market for Beech-Nut brand single-grain rice cereals”, the FDA said in its recall announcement.
“Beech-Nut is concerned about the ability to consistently obtain rice flour well below FDA guidance level and Beech-Nut specifications for naturally occurring inorganic arsenic,” FDA said .
In its announcement, the FDA quoted Jason Jacobs, Beech-Nut’s vice president for food safety and quality.
“The safety of infants and children is Beech-Nut’s top priority. We are initiating this voluntary recall because we have learned through routine sampling by the State of Alaska that a limited amount of beech and nut-based single grain rice cereal products have levels of ‘Naturally occurring inorganic arsenic above the FDA recommended level, although the rice flour used to produce these products tested below the FDA guidance level for inorganic arsenic, ”Jacobs said.
Growing concern over high arsenic levels
FDA first proposed the arsenic limit in infant rice cereals in 2016 when studies found that nearly half (47%) of infant rice cereals sampled in retail stores in 2014 contained 100 parts per billion arsenic or more. The agency finalized the limit in August 2020.
“To our knowledge, this is the first recall of infant rice cereal due to high levels of arsenic,” said Jane Houlihan, research director for Healthy Babies Bright Futures, a consumer advocacy group studying levels of toxic metals in baby foods.
In 2019, Healthy Babies Bright Futures found that four of the seven infant cereals they tested contained more than 100 parts per billion arsenic.
“The FDA’s announcement of the recall is great news,” Houlihan said. “It is so important for babies that this cereal does not reach the market. We fully support the FDA’s enforcement action to help reduce arsenic exposures for these little ones who are so vulnerable. “
In March of this year, the FDA told all baby food manufacturers that they must consider toxic chemicals when testing their baby food for potential dangers.
The agency’s action comes one month after a congressional investigation discovered that several baby food manufacturers knowingly sold baby food containing high levels of toxic heavy metals.
the congressional investigation reviewed internal documents provided by four major baby food manufacturers: Gerber; Beech and Walnut Nutrition Society; Nurture, Inc., which sells Happy Baby products; and Hain Celestial Group, Inc., which sells the best organic baby foods on Earth.
“Dangerous levels of toxic metals like arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury exist in baby foods at levels that exceed what experts and governing bodies say are allowed,” the representative told CNN. Illinois Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi at the report’s release. Krishnamoorthi is chairman of the House subcommittee on economic and consumer policy, which conducted the inquiry signed by Democrats.
Krishnamoorthi said the spreadsheets provided by the manufacturers were “shocking” because they showed evidence that some baby foods contain hundreds of parts per billion of dangerous metals.
“Yet we know that in many cases we shouldn’t have anything more than one-digit parts per billion of any of these metals in any of our foods,” he told CNN.
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It didn’t matter whether the baby food was organic, the subcommittee found that the levels of toxic metals were still high.
At the time, Gerber, Beech-Nut, Nurture, and Hain all told CNN that they had strict testing and quality standards for the products they sold.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element found in soil, water and air, with the inorganic form being the most toxic. (“Inorganic” is a chemical term and has nothing to do with the cultivation method.)
Because rice is grown in water, it is particularly good at absorbing inorganic arsenic and, according to the FDA, has the highest concentration of any food.
Arsenic concentrations were twice as high in the urine of infants who ate white or brown rice than those who did not eat rice, according to a 2016 study. Arsenic levels were highest in babies who ate rice cereal, often given several times a day to introduce babies to solids.
If you think unhulled brown or wild rice might be a healthier choice, think again. They contain more arsenic than white rice because the milling process used to create white rice removes the outer layers of the grain, where much of the arsenic is concentrated.
You also cannot rely on organic food. A 2012 study found that brown rice syrup, a common sweetener in organic foods, was also a source of significant arsenic levels. An “organic” milk formula marketed for toddlers had levels of inorganic arsenic that were six times the levels currently considered safe by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Arsenic is a known carcinogen that can influence the risk of cardiovascular, immune and other diseases, but it’s the impact on a developing baby’s brain that is most concerning, experts say.
A 2004 study examined children in Bangladesh who were exposed to arsenic in drinking water, and found that they scored significantly lower on intellectual tests.
A meta-analysis of studies on the subject found that a 50% increase in arsenic levels in urine would be associated with a 0.4 point decrease in IQ in children aged 5 to 15 years.
Other studies have looked at how exposure to inorganic arsenic during pregnancy might alter a baby’s immune system. A 2013 study arsenic levels in pregnant women who ate rice products found that even low levels of inorganic arsenic exposure in utero were linked to childhood respiratory infections in the first four months of life . Babies exposed to the highest levels were associated with serious infections that required antibiotics to resolve.
Because of these concerns, child safety advocates have criticized the FDA’s cut-off levels for arsenic in grains, saying they are not low enough to adequately protect infants.
“In setting the action level that triggered the recall, the FDA did not take into account the damage to the developing brain of infants and did not take into account children who eat more than average amounts. of rice, ”Houlihan said.
National nutrition surveys show Hispanic infants and toddlers 2.5 times more likely to eat rice on any given day than other children, according to Healthy Babies Bright Futures, while Asian Americans eat nearly 10 times more rice than the national average.
In addition, according to the group, children diagnosed with celiac disease – an intolerance to wheat – often eat rice products and thus ingest about 14 times more arsenic than other children.
“The FDA should lower the allowable limit,” Houlihan said. “Until then, parents have options – other types of infant cereal contain on average one sixth more arsenic than infant rice cereal, and are safer choices.”
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