High Levels of Arsenic Found in Organic Baby Foods

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As if there wasn’t enough information out there to make you want to live in a bubble. Now the organic foods we thought were safer are turning out to be just as bad.

A new study from Dartmouth University has found high levels of arsenic, a chemical linked to cancer and developmental effects, in foods that list organic brown rice syrup as a primary ingredient. Organic rice syrup, what was thought to be a “healthy” alternative to high fructose corn syrup, is often found in prepared organic foods.

The researchers tested 17 infant formulas, 29 cereal bars and three types of energy shot drinks. Two infant formulas –- one dairy based and the other soy based – listed organic brown rice syrup as their primary ingredient. They both contained arsenic levels 20 times higher than the other formulas made without organic brown rice syrup.

Levels of both organic and inorganic arsenic were tested, and inorganic arsenic was the main source found in the products. Current research has linked inorganic arsenic to various cancers.

The study’s lead author Brian Jackson said he did not think there was an immediate threat in the cereal bars and energy shots. “I don’t think there’s a real immediate danger,” said Jackson. “The only comparison is drinking water and the risk factors are based on lifetime exposure.”

However, Jackson said there is cause for concern with the infant formula.

“It’s probably not a good thing for an infant to be exposed to those levels of arsenic,” Jackson said. “We don’t know the effects of long-term exposure.”

Dr. Mehmet Oz, who last year commissioned a report on arsenic levels in fruit juices,  said organic obviously doesn’t necessarily mean safe. He said even foods that are organic may absorb arsenic through a natural process.

“It’s a big concern for me,” Oz said. “I think it’s another reason [why] we need to be very strict on how much arsenic we’re going to allow in our food supply. This is especially important for kids, it’s in infant formula that we’re seeing this stuff, it’s in juices that kids are taking.”

Wahida Karmally, an associate research scientist at the Columbia University Medical Center who was not affiliated with the study, said he is very worried about these findings. “I’m very concerned about the idea of babies on formula that is laced with arsenic,” he said. “I wish the researchers had told us which of the formulas tested high in arsenic so they could be taken off the market.”

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