Many Minnesota parents may be wondering whether they should stop feeding their children rice after a report this week revealed that inorganic arsenic is present in dozens of rice products, including infant cereal.
Inorganic arsenic is a known carcinogen.
Consumer Reports tested more than 200 rice samples and found what it describes as "worrying" levels of inorganic arsenic in many of the products. Currently there is no federal standard for arsenic in food products.
Dr. Esther Krych, a pediatrician and co-editor of the Mayo Clinic Guide to Your Baby's First Year, said it's too early to know exactly what the findings might mean for human health.
"The numbers are concerning and I think if parents would like to choose a different grain alternative we would definitely be supportive of them," Krych said. "On the other hand we certainly don't want to induce mass panic among parents and make them worry that they've caused harm to their children because we really don't necessarily think that either."
Krych said parents of infants might want to limit their babies' consumption of rice cereal to one to two servings per day, or switch to oatmeal or barley cereal.
Krych said if a family's diet revolves around rice, there are some reasonable precautions they can take while scientists sort this issue out.
"If the family is getting a lot of rice from the areas in the U.S. where the concern has specifically has been raise, one option for them might be to think about buying rice that they know has been grown elsewhere," Krych said.
The Consumer Reports analysis shows that in general rice from the south-central U.S. contains higher levels of inorganic arsenic than rice samples that came from California, India and Thailand.