All baby food is currently within safe limits so take a sensible approach about the amount of baby rice you give little ones
Scientists in Sweden have called for new food safety guidelines after low levels of arsenic and other metal toxins, such as cadmium and lead, were confirmed in baby foods, particularly those containing rice.
Is this something mums should be worried about?
It's definitely not something to panic about if you've been feeding your baby or child baby rice. The levels found were all low and below the current official safety levels.
The scientists are really warning that it’s difficult to accurately assess the risk of low levels of these toxins in babies and young children. This is because of their low body weight and rapid rate of development, which may make young infants particularly susceptible to toxins exposure. So more research is needed.
What is the current safe level?
In the UK, the current regulations state a limit of 1mg/kg of arsenic in food, However, both the European Commission and the Food Standards Agency in the UK are carrying out a review of their guidelines, partly to investigate the risks of long-term exposure in food designed for babies and toddlers.
British baby food manufacturers confirmed they rigorously test all elements in their products and that all conform to the current UK food standards.
Concern over toxins in baby rice is not a new story. It’s actually surprisingly difficult to avoid these kind of food contaminants completely, as toxins such as arsenic, cadmium and lead are all naturally found in low levels in soil and water.
They are then absorbed by plants from the soil – even if they’re being grown organically. Rice is particularly prone to absorbing arsenic, which means rice grown in arsenic-containing soil can contain quite high levels.
It’s for this reason, that baby rice has been pinpointed in this study.
Didn't I hear something before about rice milk?
Yes, back in May 2009, the FSA advised that young children aged between 1 and 4 and a half should not have rice drinks as a replacement for cows’ milk, breast milk or infant formula.
Baby rice milk was singled out because children would drink a relatively large amount to replace their normal milk drink. The FSA warned that a daily half pint or 280 millilitres of rice drink could double the amount of inorganic arsenic (the more harmful form) they consume each day.
However, at the time, the FSA reiterated that this was just a precautionary measure and there was no immediate risk to children who had been having rice drinks and that it was unlikely there would have been any long-term harmful effects.
So should you stop feeding your baby rice?
We're talking very low levels of conaminants so it's a question of being sensible about the amount of rice-based baby food you give, especially for young babies. Certainly avoid giving rice milk drinks to young children and aim to continue breastfeeding for as long as possible and for the first six months if you can. The good news is that any toxins that mums ingest through their food are filtered out of breast milk.