Arsenic and Our Food

Arsenic and Our Food

A investigator from Dartmouth College has done us all a favor and exposed the fact that certain foods we give our children have elevated levels of arsenic.

Two key conclusions can be drawn from his findings:
  1. The level of arsenic found in these foods was clearly over the permitted level.  The reported concentrations in the food were as high as 10-12 times the permitted level.
  2. The level of arsenic has not been shown to have caused any harm in any known individual.  This is a very important point.  Every substance has a toxicologic profile, meaning that there is an amount under which it is harmless and over which it begins to cause harm.  Obviously, if your exposure to a given substance is under the level that causes harm, the exposure will not be harmful at all.   We do not know if anyone exposed has had an amount of arsenic that will cause harm.
The Arsenic contaminated products

All of the products containing arsenic trace the arsenic to a brown rice syrup.   If a food you have contains no brown rice syrup, this warning is not for you.

Here is a list of those products we have ascertained contained the arsenic via the brown rice syrup.
  1. Organic infant formula-  two brands of 17 tested had arsenic both had brown rice syrup as an ingredient.  One of those brands is Baby's Only Organic Formula
  2. Cereal Bars- again arsenic limited to those containing brown rice syrup
  3. Energy Shots- three brands tested, one had arsenic, and as before, contained brown rice syrup
Many wonder, how did a poison like arsenic end up in infant formula, especially an organic brand?  The answer is that all these foods were grown organically and so none had any arsenic applied to them.  But arsenic is present in the Southern rice fields from the days when those fields grew cotton.  Cotton is not eaten so nearly unlimited amounts of toxic pesticides can and are applied to those plants.  The arsenic applied in those times remains in the soil forever, and rice is a plant quite adept at sucking up arsenic in the soil.  And so, even on an organic farm, rice planted in arsenic containing soil will have arsenic in it.

Should you be worried?  No.

The next question now is just how much to be worried?  The answer is, not much.
The real impact of this finding is that we need to track the presence of toxic elements like arsenic in our food supply.  The fact that arsenic is present makes me think we should look for it and reduce its levels in our food.

The story mentions that arsenic is in some foods up to 12x the level set as safe.  Keep in mind that the level set as safe, as noted above, may be much lower than the level that will actually start causing symptoms.  We have actually heard from Dr. Brian Jackson, the lead investigator on this study from Dartmouth, who is an expert on arsenic.  A family in the practice has been in touch with him and passed these words from him along, "...you don't need to panic here, these are not acutely toxic concentrations."

No one has been reported with even one symptom or sign of any harm from arsenic exposure from these foods.  And, the scientist most concerned about arsenic states there is no reason for concern of any harm being done, as long as the food is no longer eaten.

Bottom Line
  • Scientists at Dartmouth have found arsenic in organic foods containing brown rice syrup.  These include 2 brands of infant formula (Baby's Organic Formula is one), cereal bars, and energy shots.
  • The amount in these foods exceeded safety thresholds, but was too little to cause any acute harm.
  • All foods with brown rice syrup should be eliminated from your home, but it appears no harm has been done to date.
  • This episode pushes me to want rules in place to keep arsenic out of our food and drink.
Dr. Arthur Lavin

*Disclaimer* The comments contained in this electronic source of information do not constitute and are not designed to imply that they constitute any form of individual medical advice. The information provided is purely for informational purposes only and not relevant to any person's particular medical condition or situation. If you have any medical concerns about yourself or your family please contact your physician immediately. In order to provide our patients the best uninfluenced information that science has to offer,we do not accept samples of drugs, advertising tchotchkes, money, food, or any item from outside vendors.

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