Chronic exposure to even low levels of inorganic arsenic has been linked to increased risk of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, MyHealthNewsDaily reports.
Brown rice syrup is often included in organic products as an alternative to high fructose corn syrup.
This study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that some cereal bars made with brown rice syrup "have concentrations of arsenic that are 12 times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's safe drinking water limit of 10 parts per billion," MyHealthNewsDaily reports. There are currently no U.S. regulations on the amount of arsenic allowed in food.
Lead researcher Brian Jackson of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire says his team analyzed the arsenic in 17 infant formulas, 29 cereal bars and three energy "shot" products, all of which contain organic brown rice syrup, rice flour, rice flakes, or grains of rice. Previous research found that rice is a major source of arsenic in the diet.
The arsenic content of baby formulas made with organic brown rice syrup is especially worrisome, Jackson says.
Recent research suggests arsenic exposure early in life may increase the risk for health problems later on. Formula may be a baby's sole food over a critical period of development, and their small size means they may consume more arsenic per kilogram of body weight than an adult eating foods with similar arsenic levels, the researchers said.
It's hard to say what effect arsenic in foods may have on adults, Jackson said. If guidelines are set for acceptable levels of arsenic in food, they may be higher than most of the levels found in this study, around 200 ppb, Jackson said.
"I don't think eating the occasional cereal bar has any real risk to it," Jackson said. For those concerned about arsenic exposure, Jackson recommends making sure meals are not rice-based. For parents, Jackson said to avoid infant formulas that contain rice syrup.
Image: Infant formula via Shutterstock.