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Organic Foods May Contain Arsenic

In yet another swingeing attack on the smug middle classes, it turns out that much of what was considered a healthy alternative to the chemical-infused pork-products and sugary beverages so beloved by the proles, organic food might contain dangrous levels of arsenic. Ulp!


As people seek healthier dietary regimens they often turn to things labeled "organic." Lurking in the background, however, is an ingredient that may be a hidden source of arsenic—an element known to be both toxic and potentially carcinogenic.

Organic brown rice syrup has become a preferred alternative to using high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener in food. High fructose corn syrup has been criticized as a highly processed substance that is more harmful than sugar and is a substantial contributor to epidemic obesity. Unfortunately, organic brown rice syrup is not without its faults.

Dartmouth researchers and others have previously called attention to the potential for consuming harmful levels of arsenic via rice, and organic brown rice syrup may be the latest culprit on the scene.

The results were alarming. One of the infant formulas tested had a total arsenic concentration of six times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) safe drinking water limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for total arsenic. Cereal bars and high-energy foods using organic brown rice syrup also had higher arsenic concentrations than those without the syrup.

The results were alarming. One of the infant formulas tested had a total arsenic concentration of six times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) safe drinking water limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for total arsenic. Cereal bars and high-energy foods using organic brown rice syrup also had higher arsenic concentrations than those without the syrup.

Jackson and his colleagues purchased commercial food products containing organic brown rice syrup and compared them with similar products that didn't contain the syrup. Seventeen infant formulas, 29 cereal bars, and 3 energy "shots" were all purchased from local stores in the Hanover, N.H., area.

The amount of inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form, averaged 8.6 ppb for a dairy based formula and 21.4 ppb for a soy formula.

This is of concern because these concentrations are comparable to, or greater than, the current U.S. drinking water limit of 10 ppb, and that limit does not account for the low body weight of infants and the corresponding increase in arsenic consumption per kilogram of body weight.

With recent news coverage of the potential for rice to contain arsenic, educated consumers may be aware that cereal/energy bars containing rice ingredients could also contain arsenic.

Jackson and his colleagues conclude that in the face of the increasing prevalence of hidden arsenic in food, and the absence of U. S. regulations in this area, "there is an urgent need for regulatory limits on arsenic in food."

Source: Dartmouth College dartmouth.edu

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