We already knew that rice was trying to kill us with its deadly arsenic, but now the situation is looking even more dire. A new study done at Dartmouth has found that organic brown rice syrup—a sweetener which you may recognize from any number of organic snacks—is also a source of arsenic. This isn't that surprising, considering brown rice syrup comes from rice (duh), but what's concerning about this new information is that brown rice syrup is a somewhat common ingredient in baby formula, and babies' developing brains and arsenic really do not mix. It's not great for us grown-ups either, since plenty of other things like energy shots and cereal bars are made with the sweetener.
Frighteningly, researchers found evidence that some baby formulas and other snacks had levels that were much higher than the federal limit allowed in drinking water of 10 parts-per-billion. Two of the 17 formulas they looked at had brown rice syrup as their main ingredient, and one of them had an arsenic concentration that was six times higher than the federal limit for water—that does not sound good! Most of the cereal bars they tested had arsenic levels that were at least twice as high as the federal limit. At the moment, there aren't currently any federal limits on the amount allowable in foods; so consumers don't have any direct protection from foods with high levels.
So you might want to go easy on loading up on those high-end, healthy-seeming granola bars that are loaded with rice products, but in truth, it's probably not that much of an issue for adults. There does, however, seem to be reason for caution with the baby formulas. Brian Jackson, the lead author of the study explains, "I would certainly advise parents who are concerned about their children's exposure to arsenic not to feed them formula where brown rice syrup is the main ingredient." It's hard to imagine there are parents who are super cavalier about their child's arsenic consumption, but maybe they're out there somewhere. Anyway, the end result is that there's yet another ingredient that can give you a little panic attack when you see it on the label. Bon Appétit!
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