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Should I worry about arsenic in my baby's infant formula?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Talk about good intentions gone wrong. Some companies that make baby formula decided to remove high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) from their products. So far, so good. To sweeten the formula, they replaced HFCS with organic brown rice syrup. Unfortunately, organic brown rice syrup more than occasionally contains arsenic -- up to six times more than the federal limit for bottled water, according to a recent study.

You might be wondering: Why compare arsenic levels in baby formula to those in bottled water? Because that's the only standard we have to work with. Believe it or not, there is no federal limit for arsenic in baby formula or any other food (and if you think that's as crazy as I do, write your congressman or -woman). Suffice to say that this study should get your attention if you buy baby formula. Long-term exposure to arsenic can cause liver, skin, kidney, and heart problems, especially in infants.

Fortunately, there's an easy solution to this problem: Just read labels and skip products that contain organic brown rice syrup. That shouldn't be too hard to do. A survey of various brands of infant formula found that just a few contain this sweetener. By the way, read the label on your energy etc. bars and other things and skip the organic or regular ice extract or syrups here, too!
Gary Ginsberg
Medical Toxicology
New data from Dartmouth College has found elevated levels of arsenic in foods and infant formula that are sweetened with rice syrup. They tested products containing organic brown rice syrup, a processed sweetener derived from rice. There is obviously something wrong with the organic label if you can call something grown on high arsenic soils organic. But aside from that, the compounding of mistakes is mind-numbing. Taking a crop high in arsenic and concentrating it down into a syrup and then putting that into baby formula -- sounds like a terrorist plot on a TV drama. Unfortunately it's actually happening. And it's even more outrageous when considering that simple sugars and empty calories are a risk for diabetes. This effect is now combined with arsenic, a chemical that can decrease pancreatic function and is linked to diabetes.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.