UK study finds illegal levels of arsenic in baby foods

UK study finds illegal levels of arsenic in baby foods
Posted at 9:41 AM, May 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-10 06:57:00-04

(RNN) – Fifty percent of rice-based food products for babies contain illegal levels of inorganic arsenic despite Federal Drug Administration and European Union standards, according to a study from the United Kingdom.

Overexposure to arsenic can lead to developmental problems, heart disease, diabetes and nervous system damage.

“This research has shown direct evidence that babies are exposed to illegal levels of arsenic despite the EU regulations to specifically address this health challenge,” said Professor Andy Meharg, the lead author of the study. “Babies are particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of arsenic that can prevent the healthy development of a baby’s growth, IQ and immune system to name but a few.”

The study was conducted by Meharg and other researchers at the Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland.

Since April 2016 the FDA has had parallel guidelines with the European Union. The U.S. organization found at the time that the “majority of infant rice cereal currently on the market” met the new standards.

“Our actions are driven by our duty to protect the public health and our careful analysis of the data and the emerging science,” Susan Mayne, director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in 2016. “The proposed limit is a prudent and achievable step to reduce exposure to arsenic among infants.”

Though the U.S. and European Union have similar standards, it is unclear if this study examined American-sold products.

The study found 75 percent of rice-based products marketed for infants exceeded the arsenic limits set by the European Union. Many products in the study contained higher levels of arsenic after the changes were enacted than before.

The researchers called for manufacturers to be held accountable for failing to meet regulatory standards. Meharg said the problem was easily preventable.

“Simple measures can be taken to dramatically reduce the arsenic in these products so there is no excuse for manufacturers to be selling baby food products with such harmful levels of this carcinogenic substance,” he said.

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