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Allergies and intolerances

Arsenic in Rice Milk

10 replies

Turniphead1 · 09/06/2009 20:40

I had heard mention on MN of rice milk containing arsenic levels. The Food Standards Agency has just made an announcement on the subject. Basically it should be avoided under 4.5 (I had previously used it in pref to soya milk for my dairy allergic DD). This is a summary from Great Ormond Street, so a good source;

The Agency has today published results from two studies: arsenic levels in rice drinks and one on cooking methods to reduce arsenic levels in rice. As a result of the rice drink study, the Agency recommends that toddlers and young children should not have rice drinks, often known as rice milk, as a replacement for cows? milk, breast milk or infant formula.

The rice drink study followed concerns about results from a study published last year that measured arsenic levels in these types of drinks. The research published today examined 60 samples of rice drinks and found low levels of arsenic in all of them (see The science behind the story section below).

The level of total arsenic ranged from 0.010 - 0.034 milligram/kilogram and the levels of inorganic ? the more harmful ? form of arsenic ranged from 0.005 - 0.020 milligram/kilogram. The proportion of inorganic arsenic in the rice drink samples ranged from 48 - 63%. None of the results were over the current legal limit (but see the Current regulations section below).

In the second study, researchers looked at the effect of cooking methods on arsenic content of rice. The Agency is not advising anyone to change the way they cook rice as a result of this study as the impact on the overall dietary intake of arsenic from different cooking methods is minimal.

What the Agency advises
As a precaution, toddlers and young children between 1 and 4.5 years old should not have rice drinks as a replacement for cows? milk, breast milk, or infant formula. This is because they will then drink a relatively large amount of it, and their intake of arsenic will be greater than that of older children and adults relative to their bodyweight. This is both on nutritional grounds and because such substitution can increase their intake of inorganic arsenic, which should be kept as low as possible. A daily half pint or 280 millilitres of rice drink could double the amount of the more harmful form of arsenic they consume each day.

There is no immediate risk to children who have been consuming rice drinks and it is unlikely that there would have been any long-term harmful effects but to reduce further exposure to arsenic parents should stop giving these drinks to toddlers and young children.

If your child is allergic to cows? milk, you are strongly advised to seek advice from your health professional or dietitian on suitable replacements.

Other groups of people do not need to change their diet because their exposure to inorganic arsenic from rice drinks is lower relative to their bodyweight.

Children under a year old should drink breast milk or infant formula milk. Cows? milk or alternatives are not suitable as a drink until an infant is 12 months old.

The research published today does not affect the Agency?s advice on any other weaning foods. Advice from a survey in 2007, which included baby rice and other rice products, concluded that these foods did not have levels of inorganic arsenic that caused concern.

Further information:
For further information on this survey, please contact: [email protected].

The science behind the story

Arsenic is widely distributed in the environment. It occurs in soil, water ? both sea and fresh ? and in almost all plants and animal tissues. As a result, arsenic occurs naturally at very low levels in many foods and it is not possible to avoid it completely. How harmful the arsenic is depends on the chemical form in which it is present. The organic form is less harmful than the inorganic form which can cause cancer by harming our genetic material (DNA). Rice and rice products have higher levels of the inorganic form of arsenic compared with other food. The Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) (an independent scientific committee that provides advice to the Food Standards Agency) has concluded that people should consume as little of this form of arsenic as reasonably practicable.

Current regulations

There are no EU-wide regulations for arsenic levels in food. In the UK, there is a general limit of 1 mg/kg (milligram per kilogram) for arsenic in food. Separate limits apply to certain food categories. For instance, ready-to-drink non-alcoholic beverages have a limit of 0.1 mg/kg. Copies of the regulations are available from the Office of Public Sector Information.

The UK regulations were set in 1959 before it was known that inorganic arsenic can cause cancer.

Discussions have started in Europe to assess the risks to human health from consuming arsenic in foodstuffs. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been asked for its opinion on the risk to human health associated with arsenic in food and EFSA's risk assessment is expected to be published in September 2009. Following this, it is possible that EU-wide regulations will be set for arsenic levels in food.

Related links
Survey of metals in weaning foods and formulae for infants Read the Food Survey Information Sheet
Survey of total and inorganic arsenic in rice drinks Food Survey Information Sheet 02/09
Foodbase - Levels of arsenic in rice: the effects of cooking
Office of Public Sector Information

OP posts:
Sheilsie · 03/07/2009 22:54

Thanks for that. My friend mentioned to it me today and I was about to google it until I saw your thread. A shame, as I had been using Rice Dream in breakfast cereal, rice pudding and risotto. I might give oat milk a go instead. Would anyone recommend it?

trixymalixy · 03/07/2009 23:00

I would definitely recomend oatly oat milk. We moved DS onto oat milk when I heard about this study. He drinks it no problem and it's nicer to make white sauces etc with.

The only problem with it is that it's a bit harder to get hold of the stuff that's fortified with calcium than it was to get the fortified rice dream.

The Oatly cream is good too, I make nice ice cream with it. i get both the milk and cream at Tesco.

mawbroon · 03/07/2009 23:00

My DS drinks oat milk by the gallon. He used to drink loads of rice milk, but I cut down after learning about the arsenic thing, and I try to keep soya to a minimum too with all the plant oestrogens in it.

He also really likes oat cream as well.

mawbroon · 03/07/2009 23:01

Look at that trixy! We x posted to the exact second!

Sheilsie · 03/07/2009 23:06

Thanks ladies! I'm quite looking forward to trying oat milk now.

trixymalixy · 03/07/2009 23:17

Ha ha, with practically the same post as well!!

artichokes · 03/07/2009 23:21

Shit. Dd1 has had about 500ml of Rice Milk everday since she was one. Now I have one more thing to fret about.

mawbroon · 03/07/2009 23:27

I noticed recently that rice dream now has little stickers on it saying that it shouldn't be the main milk for children under the age of 3, or was it 4? I can't remember.

Anyway, I presume this is in light of this stuff about the arsenic

mamatilly · 16/07/2009 20:57

geez, first elidel and now rice milk... mothers worries know no bounds....

Worrier28 · 08/08/2009 10:13

Is this the same as baby rice? Sorry for being a bit thick.

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