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Persistent Pollutants

US FDA sets voluntary arsenic limit in infant rice cereal

Agency encourages manufacturers to keep levels at or below 100 ppb

by Britt E. Erickson
August 6, 2020

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Credit: Shutterstock
The FDA is encouraging manufacturers to limit inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal to at or below 100 ppb.

The US Food and Drug Administration has finalized guidance recommending a limit of 100 ppb for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal. The Aug. 5 action comes more than 4 years after the agency first proposed the limit. Although the limit is not legally enforceable, it is intended to encourage food manufacturers to reduce levels of inorganic arsenic in their products.

“It is important to note that the agency’s data show that most products on the market are already below this level,” Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, says in a statement.

The FDA has been testing rice cereal for arsenic for nearly a decade. The agency claims that levels of arsenic have fallen during that time. In 2014, 53% of samples tested by the FDA exceeded 100 ppb of arsenic. In 2018, only 24% of samples exceeded that limit.

Infants and children are particularly vulnerable to neurodevelopmental problems from exposure to inorganic arsenic. The FDA believes companies can lower the amount of inorganic arsenic in rice cereal by following good manufacturing practices, such as by testing rice and rice ingredients for arsenic before they are used in infant cereals.

Consumer groups welcomed the FDA’s action as an important first step, but they urged the agency to do more to protect children from arsenic in all foods, not just rice cereal.

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