What Is Being Done About Arsenic Levels in Baby Rice Cereal

Infant rice cereal isn't just a staple in many infants' diets — it's also a leading source of arsenic exposure in babies.

In order to combat concerns about the impact of this exposure on pregnant women and babies, the Food and Drug Administration is working to limit the inorganic arsenic found in infant rice cereal. Arsenic isn't an additive ingredient, and according to the FDA, it doesn't matter if you buy organic cereal. Due to how rice grows, both the plant and grain absorb arsenic faster than other food crops — even if grown under organic farming practices.

A recent study completed by the FDA in 2016 found that arsenic exposure in infants and pregnant women could result in damaging outcomes including decreased developmental performance on cognitive tests.

Infants eat nearly three times more rice cereal than adults, relative to their size, and the FDA is proposing a limit of 100 parts per billion for arsenic in rice cereal. According to the agency's sampling of 76 types of infant rice cereal found at retail stores, nearly 75 percent already meet or fall below this limit.

In addition to the proposed limit, the FDA has also issued new guidelines for parents and caregivers:

  • Feed your baby iron-fortified cereals to be sure she or he is receiving enough of this important nutrient.
  • Rice cereal fortified with iron is a good source of nutrients for your baby, but it shouldn't be the only source and does not need to be the first source. Other fortified infant cereals include oat, barley, and multigrain.
  • For toddlers, provide a well-balanced diet, which includes a variety of grains.