Consumer Reports (CR) has sent letters to five baby food companies to ask them to pause the manufacturing and sale of infant rice cereal, citing the high levels of inorganic arsenic that repeatedly show up in these types of products.
Letters have gone out to executives at Walmart, Gerber, Plum Organics, Happy Family Organics, and Hain Celestial. CR says a suspension of the manufacturing and sale of infant rice cereal should be imposed and remain in effect “until a more protective health standard for inorganic arsenic is implemented through updated regulations or voluntary measures.”
CR's decision to send the letters relies on recent congressional reports on heavy metals in baby food from February and September 2021, and the June 2021 decision by the Beech-Nut Nutrition Company to discontinue the manufacture of baby rice cereals due to the arsenic issue.
CR is also mobilizing people across the U.S. to sign petitions to ask the companies to stop making and selling infant rice cereals until protective health standards are imposed by industry or the federal government. The petition can be found online at ConsumerReports.org/ricecereal.
Brian Ronholm, director of food policy for Consumer Reports, says: “These companies should follow the lead of Beech-Nut and suspend the manufacturing and sale of all infant rice cereals until a more protective health standard is in place. Even low levels of inorganic arsenic can have adverse effects on cognitive development in young children. Infant rice cereal is responsible for more than half of all exposure to inorganic arsenic in infants and toddlers. Removing these products from the market would be the most effective approach to address this issue and provide assurances to parents and caregivers.”
In the letters to companies, CR notes: “Rice is known to accumulate inorganic arsenic at a rate much higher than other grains. Although rice-based products make a significant portion of solid foods for infants and toddlers, other grains have been shown to have much lower levels of arsenic. Testing by Consumer Reports found that the grains amaranth, buckwheat, millet, and polenta or grits had negligible levels of inorganic arsenic. Bulgur, barley, and farro also had very little arsenic. Quinoa had average inorganic arsenic levels comparable to those of other alternative grains, and oats had been identified as another option that is lower in inorganic arsenic. It is evident that removing infant rice cereal from a baby’s diet would not limit the availability of other options.”
CR is asking the companies for responses by November 5, 2021. To learn more, read the CR letters to companies and CR’s petition to the companies.