What is in this article?:
- Organic industry addresses arsenic in organic baby formula, brown rice
- Organic agriculture will reduce arsenic in the environment, experts say
Apple juice, organic baby formula and brown rice—an unlikely trio that all were recently found to contain high levels of arsenic. Here's how Lundberg Family Farms, Nature's One and the Organic Trade Association are responding to the unfavorable news.
Bad news keeps surfacing for healthy-minded consumers when it comes to potential contaminants in their food. According to a new study by Dartmouth College, organic baby formula and products with brown rice syrup were found to contain levels of arsenic far surpassing the Environmental Protection Agency's safe limits for drinking water.
To learn how natural and organic industry players are dealing with the issue—which comes on the heels of highly publicized news about arsenic in apple juice, including organic brands—we spoke to Grant Lundberg, CEO of well-respected organic rice producer Lundberg Family Farms, who was busy fielding a TV interview.
“For us, this is a very important health and safety issue," he said. "This is a new piece of research that has come out—but there has been other research talking about different foods, and some research on rice. So the research community is starting to fill in this question. As a company, we are advocating continuing research so we can understand what this means."
“We’re advocating that the FDA set up guidelines for this. There are no guidelines [for foods or beverages]," he said. "As you know, there’s arsenic in seafood, in other vegetables and grains, in air and water. As each study comes out, we learn more, but there’s nobody connecting the dots, and that makes it hard to put in perspective."
In the wake of the earlier apple juice news, he said, “I think there’s an opportunity here for industry and academia to join together. In fact, the researchers advocate that the FDA step in and set up tolerances.”
Lundberg said he’d been busy reaching out to retailers, direct customers and consumers. He said the company currently does not test for arsenic. “There’s exposure to arsenic throughout our environment—air, water, food—and it’s a question of where does this [study's research] fit in?”
What should consumers do?
Dartmouth researchers found that two Nature's One baby formulas with brown rice syrup had arsenic levels more than 20 times greater than each of the 15 formulas that didn’t contain brown rice syrup, reported The Boston Globe. The two products are Baby’s Only Organic Dairy Toddler Formula and Baby’s Only Organic Soy Toddler Formula.
Nature's One responded in a statement that it "uses a qualified, world renowned, third-party, independent lab to test arsenic levels in their organic brown rice syrup" and that those testing results report "undetectable amounts of arsenic at laboratory testing limits."
So what should concerned parents do? Pediatrician and Healthy Child Healthy World board member Alan Greene, MD, wrote in a blog: “I recommend that rice not be the primary source of calories for babies, and that whatever rice they do get comes primarily from California and/or is adequately tested for arsenic (with technology at least able to detect 10 ppb). Avoid conventional rice from countries still using arsenical pesticides.”
Greene noted that, "rice is the main dietary source of arsenic for many Americans. Whatever arsenic is present can be concentrated in rice syrups. And babies are more susceptible than adults to arsenic and other toxins.”