There is a new arsenic controversy in the news. Instead of apple juice, this time it is organic brown rice syrup.
Researchers from Dartmouth College announced in Environmental Health Perspectives that they discovered very high levels of inorganic (not naturally occurring) arsenic in organic baby products, whose top ingredient was brown rice syrup.
While the EPA regulates the amount of arsenic in water, no more than 10 parts per billion is allowed, there are no such standards for arsenic in food, except for fruit juice.
So, when the researchers did their testing, they found that the arsenic levels in the organic baby food were 6 times higher than the allowable limits for water.
Even though other products, such as energy shots and cereal bars failed this arsenic test as well, the organic baby formula raised more of a red flag because this is the primary source of nutrition for babies.
RESPONSE FROM THE ORGANIC INDUSTRY
Nature’s One, the manufacturer of organic baby formulas whose primary ingredient is organic brown rice syrup, said in a statement that it “uses a qualified, world-renowned, third-party, independent lab to test arsenic levels in their organic brown rice syrup. Their testing results report undetectable amounts of arsenic at laboratory testing limits.”
On its website, Nature’s One points to a test by The Environmental & Science Technology, which was completed in 2007.
Lundberg Family Farms, the most prominent manufacturer of organic brown rice syrup, said that it would further investigate these claims but that it “stands behind the safety, nutritional value and health benefits of all our rice products.”
I have had several reactions to this piece of news.
1) While I am not an organic chemistry expert, is it reasonable to compare arsenic levels in food to arsenic levels in water? Are we comparing apples to oranges? Maybe, maybe not.
I’d say we are drinking a lot more water than we are consuming food.
2) Even though I promote organic food on my site, does constantly feeding a toddler food, whose primary ingredient is organic brown rice syrup, make a lot of sense?
Why does a two-month old need to be eating a sweetener at all? He or she doesn’t.
Is it going to cause damage if a baby eats this organic food formula every now and then? Probably not.
3) Am I going to stay away from organic brown rice syrup because of this report?
No, but I will continue to eat all sweeteners in moderation.
At the end of the day, I believe that this arsenic controversy is just another smear campaign against organic. Organic is by far the healthiest food we can be eating but the growth of the industry poses a serious threat to Big Ag and major consumer products companies.
To me, much bigger issues are the real health concerns of genetically-modified foods, toxic pesticides, and growth hormones in our dairy and meats. These are things that truly endanger our health but how much media attention do they get?
I am not dismissing the seriousness of arsenic in organic brown rice syrup and organic baby products, as it needs to be investigated and the EPA needs to establish arsenic limits for all foods.
I will keep you posted as developments unfold about this matter with arsenic and organic brown rice syrup, and will speak to Lundberg and Nature’s One when I am at Natural Products Expo West in a few weeks.