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Food Products Containing Organic Brown Rice Syrup may be an Unsuspected Source of Dietary Arsenic

Brian Jackson, PH.D

Researchers at the EPA/NIEHS Dartmouth Children's Center have found that rice-related ingredients such as organic brown rice syrup in food products are a potential source of arsenic in diets.   A publication from their study, "Arsenic, Organic Foods, and Brown Rice Syrup," was released online today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Organic brown rice syrup has become an alternative to high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener in many food products such as toddler formula, cereal and energy bars and energy shots.  Dartmouth researchers and others conducted previous studies on the levels of arsenic in rice. As a follow-on study, Dartmouth researchers decided to look into whether arsenic could be present in food products that contain ingredients made from rice. As a result of that research, Dartmouth researchers found levels of some of the more toxic forms of arsenic in commercial food products which contain organic brown rice syrup.

One of the toddler formulas containing organic brown rice syrup tested in the Dartmouth study had a total arsenic concentration of six times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s safe drinking water standard of 10 parts per billion (ppb). Cereal bars and high-energy foods using organic brown rice syrup also had elevated arsenic concentrations compared to those without that ingredient.  Of the products tested that contain organic brown rice, the researchers found arsenic levels in toddler formulas up to 21.4 ppb, up to 128 ppb in cereal bars, and up to 171 ppb in energy shots.  The more toxic inorganic arsenic was the main type found in the majority of food products tested in the study.

Researchers say their findings raise concerns about contaminants in food products and that many consumers may not be aware that some cereal/energy bars and energy shots may contain ingredients which could also contain arsenic.   In light of these test results, the researchers suggest there is an “urgent need for regulatory limits on arsenic in food.”

The Dartmouth Children’s Center is jointly funded by the U.S. EPA and the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), while Dr. Jackson’s Trace Element Analysis laboratory is supported with funds from the NIEHS Superfund Research Program.

One of the goals of the Dartmouth Children’s Center is to better understand the combined impact of arsenic both in drinking water and food on children’s health and to support community and public awareness to minimize those health risks to reduce environmental threats to children’s health.

To view the paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives, visit:

For more information about the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) U.S. EPA grant RD834599 funding the EPA/NIEHS Dartmouth Children’s Center, visit:

To learn more about EPA/NIEHS’s Children’s Centers, visit:

To learn more about the U.S. EPA Children’s Health Protection programs, visit:

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