Brown rice syrup is often used as an organic alternative to high fructose corn syrup, but researchers suggest rice can be a source of inorganic of arsenic. Arsenic is toxic at high doses and may also damage the liver, skin, kidney and cardiovascular system with chronic exposure. Inconvenient, no? A recent sampling of brown rice syrup-sweetened products, including baby formula and cereal bars, has found arsenic levels exceeding US standards for bottled water.

Following a Consumer Reports analysis of arsenic levels in juice, researchers at Dartmouth College tested 17 baby formulas, 29 cereal bars and three energy shots that were purchased in the Hanover, New Hampshire area.

In the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the team reported that of the two formulas that listed organic brown rice syrup as the main ingredient, one had a total arsenic concentration that was six times the federal limit for bottled water, which is 10 parts per billion.

Of the 29 cereal bars and high energy bars studied, the 22 with rice-based ingredients among the first five ingredients showed higher arsenic concentrations than comparable products without the rice-based sweetener.

While Brian Jackson, the lead researcher, told Reuters that eating a cereal bar every few days would probably not do much harm, that babies and toddlers should probably avoid formulas containing brown rice syrup until levels have been regulated, as it’s a source of arsenic that hasn’t been considered before.

The team said there is an “urgent” need for regulation in food,  as arsenic and its metabolites can become absorbed in rice through natural microbes as well as traces of pesticides in the soil. The FDA says they recognize that there may be trace amounts of arsenic in many foods and that it has expanded its surveillance of rice.

What do you think? Are you concerned? Should arsenic levels in food be regulated? 

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