A US food safety authority has “expanded” its surveillance of inorganic arsenic levels in organic brown rice syrup (OBRS) in response to calls for regulatory limits.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) statement followed a scientific report, Arsenic, Organic Foods, and Brown Rice Syrup, that found high concentrations of inorganic arsenic in several organic products including baby formula.
The report, which was published in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal earlier this month, called into question the lack of regulatory limits surrounding the presence of arsenic in OBRS in the United States and European Union (EU).
There are no current US or EU regulations in relation to levels of inorganic arsenic in food.
Only China has a set regulatory limit – with arsenic allowed in levels up to 150 parts per billion (ppb).
FoodProductionDaily.com approached the European Commission (EC) in relation to the report, but it was unable to respond before deadline.
“Because arsenic is naturally occurring in soil and was used for many years in pesticides, we know there are trace amounts of arsenic in many foods. In response, FDA has expanded its surveillance activities in rice to ensure that consumers are protected,” the FDA statement said.
Despite its promise to expand surveillance, the FDA added that it was unaware of any brand of infant formula containing OBRS.
“FDA is not aware of any brand of infant formula containing organic brown rice syrup (OBRS).”
“One brand of “toddler formula” uses OBRS as a sweetener. This product is labelled for use in children older than 12 months; however the label also states that a health care professional should be consulted before using this product for infants under 12 months of age.”
“In fact, beginning October 2011, FDA began a further study of arsenic in rice and rice products in order to determine the level and types of arsenic typically found in these products. The study is scheduled to complete in Spring 2012.”
The FDA has been monitoring arsenic content in foods for more than 20 years, the agency added.
“Cause for concern”
OBRS, which is used as a sweetener in products including infant formula and cereal bars, is often used as an alternative to high fructose corn syrup.
Research related to the study found levels of arsenic in several products that included OBRS.
Products tested included three brown rice syrups, 29 cereal bars, three high energy performance products and 17 infant formulas samples.
Although levels of arsenic in OBRS in infant formula did not, on average, exceed Chinese limits, the results represent a “cause for concern,” said the research.
In 2011, FoodProductionDaily.com reported on a similar set of FDA-implemented measures.
In November 2011, the FDA announced it was “seriously considering setting guidance or other level for inorganic arsenic in apple juice.”
The FDA is still considering setting guidance despite reiterating its confidence in the overall safety of apple juice.