Thursday, February 16, 2012

Is none of our food untainted?

Organic brown rice syrup has been found to contain dangerously high levels of arsenic.

That's right--those of us who are trying faithfully to avoid high-fructose corn syrup often choose products with brown rice syrup, especially energy bars. Clif bars are my favorite meal replacement, such as on Sunday mornings when we race out of the house without time for breakfast.

Environmental chemist Brian P. Jackson and his team found dangerous amounts of arsenic in brown rice syrup, which is used as an alternative sweetener in a variety of products. The research is published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Apparently rice (especially brown) picks up more of the arsenic in the ground than other grains. Organic natural forms of arsenic are found in the soil, while traces of arsenic-based pesticides (banned in 1999) can also still be found in the soil.

The worst of it is that this also applies to two brands of organic toddler formula made with brown rice syrup--these formulas had 20 to 30 times more arsenic than the other formulas. Given the small size of a toddler, that level of arsenic is dangerous. Ironically, this formula company's web site touts, "Following breast milk, parents can continue providing organic nutrition with Baby's Only Organic® Toddler Formula. Nature's One® scientifically designed the first organic formulas using ingredient standards that extend beyond 'organic,' insuring (sic) the highest quality nutritional formulas available." My #1 question is this: why in the heck are parents giving toddlers formula with sweetener in it, anyway? Why not cow milk, soy milk, or some other form of milk?

This news does not come completely out of the blue. In 2010, Consumer Reports found high levels of heavy metals, including arsenic, in protein powders and protein drinks. I hope you're reading this, Nadine and David! Scary. Is nothing safe?


  1. Why did you post photos of the two products, neither of which has been named as brands that contain arsenic. That seems irresponsible as it gives a message that they do.

  2. That is a good point, Ruth, so I did some searching. The research said the arsenic was highest in products that contain brown rice syrup as their first ingredient. That is the case with Clif bars, and the same with Baby's Own toddler formula. Your comment prompted me to do some more searching, and in fact Baby's Own formula was one of the products that tested high for arsenic:

    In fact, I am more concerned about parents who are giving these children products that could be tainted with arsenic than I am about the reputation of these companies. Consumer alert!

    I love Clif bars...but unless I know they do not contain high levels of arsenic, I will no longer buy them.

  3. In regard to your comment about why parents are giving their babies formula with suger rather than cow's milk, soy milk or some other form of milk. Are you a parent? Do you realize that cow's milk contains proteins that are too hard for an infant to break down and digest? That is why babies are given formula or breast milk for the first year of their lives. Also, have you checked the label of cow's milk lately? Most contain at least 12 grams of sugar per servin unless is comes straight from the cow. Almost everything contains sugar these days. Soy is a genetically modified ingredient. I would never give my baby soy milk. Soy is also a high allergen. Until now, Baby's Only was supposed to be one of the best choices on the markets for parents concerned with what to give their babies. You cannot find a baby formula that does not have some type of sweetner in it. Lactose, corn syrup, brown rice syrup, etc. That's why breast milk is best.

  4. Thanks for your comment. Yes, of course I'm a parent--I have three boys, and I nursed them for years, and I absolutely agree with you that breast milk is best.

    I totally get that breastfeeding doesn't work for everyone, and some moms have to give their babies formula. That wasn't my point. My understanding of "toddler" is over 1 year old. That's why I'm questioning why you would give a toddler formula.

    Even if a child had "failure to thrive" (hate that term!), typically they would be prescribed a high-calorie, special drink. My nephew was on such a formula-type drink for a year when the doctor was concerned about his slow weight gain.

    Mostly my comment was directed at the tendency of formula (and other companies) to tell parents what they should be buying for their kids...toddlers, no less! I'm not critizing parents for giving their infants formula...just questioning why toddlers would need it.

  5. PLEASE provide the brands. This is very alarming. There are so many mothers who are unable to breast feed, and have no other choice but to rely on formula.

  6. My understanding is that Baby's Only formula is the one to be concerned about. Yesterday the news said "toddler formula," but now it seems they are talking about baby formula: Here's a post I found about making your own baby formula, which might not be practical but would be at least safer: Until we know more, I'd avoid formulas with brown rice syrup as their #1 ingredient.