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FDA: Limit Arsenic Levels in Baby Rice Cereal

Concerns about the potential health risks from arsenic in infant rice cereal has prompted the Food and Drug Administration to propose limits for one of America's favorite baby foods.

The FDA is taking steps to reduce inorganic arsenic (the more toxic form) in infant rice cereal. Long recognized as a carcinogen, and absorbed in food crops like rice, recent health data led to the new advice for pregnant women and infants.

In 2016, FDA completed an analysis of evidence linking relatively high levels of inorganic arsenic during pregnancy with adverse pregnancy outcomes. The FDA also found that exposure to arsenic may result in a child's decreased performance on learning and cognitive tests.

Relative to their size, infants consume about three times more rice than adults. At 8 months of age, rice cereal is often the centerpiece of an infant's diet.

Traces of arsenic are present in many foods, including grains, fruits and vegetables, but rice absorbs it more easily than most foods do. Rice cereals have long been one of the first foods given to babies.

Parents may consider rice an important first food for infants, but it shouldn't be the only source, says Dr. Jennifer Lowry, chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health and Chief of Section of Toxicology at Children's Mercy in Kansas City, Missouri.

"I wouldn't say don't eat rice," Lowry told NBC News. "I would say, don't only eat rice. Eat other grains in addition to rice, and eat other grains first."

Published studies, including new research by the FDA, indicate that cooking rice in excess water (from six to 10 parts water to one part rice), and draining the excess water, can reduce from 40 to 60 percent of the inorganic arsenic content, depending on the type of rice — although this method may also remove some key nutrients.

Read the full story via NBC News.

Read more about Children's Mercy's Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutic Innovation.