Nutrition Parenting

Arsenic: When Should You Worry?

What’s up with the “new” research warning about arsenic in baby foods? Should you worry?

What’s the deal with the “NEW” research that shows baby foods are at risk of containing heavy metals?

Heavy metals aren’t new

Remember a few years ago all the hubbub about arsenic in apple juice?

Same story, different year.

Heavy metals are found in soil and water, so plants absorb them as they grow, some more than others. For example, rice absorbs about 10 times more arsenic than other grains absorb. Root vegetables are also prone to higher levels of metals.

Arsenic levels are falling

In the past 10 years improved irrigation processes have brought levels down in many foods. There’s still work to do but this is good news!

Vary it up!

Offering a variety of foods can help lower risk. You do not have to eliminate all high risk foods-such as root vegetables and rice.

Limit their use by offering a variety of other foods. Root vegetables offer important nutrients, so rather than avoiding them all together, offer them occasionally.

Variety is best for overall nutrition for many reasons, not just contaminant risks!

Ways to lower risk of arsenic

If your family eats a lot of rice, learn to cook it with excess water (like you would with pasta) so you can pour off the extra water and contaminants.

Use cereals other than rice cereal. There are many other grains with less risk. Many parents still think that the first food should be rice cereal. That hasn’t been the recommendation for many years. There’s no reason to start with rice cereal other than that’s what Grandma did.

Don’t give juice to infants and young children. Not only can they include arsenic and other metals, they’re high in sugar and low in nutrients. Have them eat the fruit instead!

Bottom line:

Be careful of headlines.

Read critically and look at the sources. Fear based articles are there to grab your attention. Don’t fall into the trap.

You are not poisoning your babies.

Your child’s IQ isn’t lowered by 20 points because you fed them carrots and rice. It’s okay.

Give them rice. Give them root vegetables. Just also give other foods!

For more:

CDC Arsenic Information

FDA Arsenic Information

By DrStuppy

I am a pediatrician and mother of two teens. I have a passion for sharing health related information.

2 replies on “Arsenic: When Should You Worry?”

Thanks for writing about this ongoing important topic. I really appreciated the way Consumer Reports helped parents understand the Issues you’ve done:

My take home reassurance comes from realizing in the middle of this Pandemic, the FDA is still doing its job! Imagine if baby food companies with names like Earth’s Best Organic Baby Foods were not held accountable for making safe, good baby foods. Our government is big and cumbersome, but we appreciate when they’re doing their jobs and our infants benefit.

Yes, the Consumer Reports article seems very balanced – not alarmist as many articles are, but it does state the concerns. They include spices in their research, which I haven’t looked into admittedly. They also include a recommendation that I am sad to say I didn’t think of: babies don’t need puffs, crackers and other snacks. I often advise that in my clinic because I think they’re a waste of money, offer little nutrition, and starts the habit of unhealthy snacks being used predominantly. Thanks for sharing this!

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