Is Your Baby Eating Poison?

I’m a big girl, and big girls eat grown up food. I have been eating solid foods for almost a year now. With that much experience, I’m pretty much an expert in this area. There have been bumps along the way, but overall it has been a pleasant journey.

When I began this adventure, mommy wanted to introduce me to an easy to digest food that would replenish my iron supply. Babies are born with about 6 months worth of iron. After that the supply needs to be replenished through an iron rich diet.

My very first big girl meal was infant oatmeal. Cereals made for babies are fortified with iron and they make an excellent staple food for a baby’s diet. I still eat oatmeal almost every day and I love it. It’s especially good with a bit of fruit mixed in. Sweet and creamy. Occasionally I’ll have a multigrain cereal instead just to keep things interesting.

There are many different baby cereal options out there. They can be made with various grains and come in a variety of flavours. Because iron fortified infant cereal tends to become a cornerstone of a baby’s diet, it’s important to choose the right one.

Believe it or not, we’re all consuming poisonous elements just about every time we eat. Should we be concerned? Maybe. The question to ask is not whether or not we’re eating poison. The question is, how much of it are we eating?

There are several toxic elements which can be found in common foods. Cyanide is found in the seeds and pits of fruits such as apples, apricots, and pears. The amount of cyanide these fruits contain is very small and it’s just about impossible to eat enough seeds to succumb to cyanide poisoning.

Cyanide is unlikely to be present in your infant cereal. What is more likely to be lurking there is arsenic. This element is naturally occurring and it exists in two forms. There is the organic arsenic which tends to be found in plant and animal tissues. There is also the far more toxic inorganic arsenic found in rocks, soil, and water.

Arsenic is found in nearly all of the things we eat but in very small quantities. Trace amounts of arsenic can’t harm us. There are some foods which tend to contain more arsenic than others. The food with the highest concentration of inorganic arsenic happens to be rice. It is unfortunate that many infant cereals and snacks are made primarily with rice.

Baby in a high chair with a quizzical expression

Are they trying to poison me?

Why does rice contain so much arsenic? There are three main factors that cause this to happen. The majority of rice is grown in parts of the world where large amounts of arsenic exist in both the soil and the water. Rice grows in flooded fields which require lots of water. Rice plants absorb more arsenic than other plants.

While arsenic does occur naturally, human activities such as pollution, mining activities, and the use of certain fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides can significantly increase the presence of arsenic in both the soil and the water. These activities release more arsenic into the soil which contaminates the ground water that is used for field irrigation. Furthermore, flooding fields with arsenic-contaminated water only increases the amount of arsenic in the soil.

Eating rice once in a while is not a problem. I enjoy the occasional rice cracker or puffed rice treat and I even have a side of rice with dinner from time to time. However, mommy is very cautious when it comes to my overall intake of rice. We little people are especially vulnerable because we are small and the amount of arsenic we ingest is proportionally larger.

Rice hides in many popular baby and toddler foods. There are the rice cereals, puffed rice treats, crackers, rice milk, and some puddings. Some infant formulas are rice-based and some formulas are sweetened with brown rice syrup. It’s a good idea to read product labels in order to have a good handle on the overall intake of rice in any person’s diet.

Inorganic arsenic can cause a number of health problems and make it more likely that an individual may develop a chronic disease. It has been linked to cancer, heart disease, hypertension, vascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. Because arsenic affects brain functions, it is especially harmful to babies, children, and teenagers. It may impair memory and concentration leading to reduced intelligence.

Some sources of rice are better than others but as a consumer, it is impossible to know how much arsenic a particular rice product may have. The best way to safeguard against overexposure to arsenic is to simply limit the amount of rice that is being consumed. This is true for everyone, but it is especially important for those of us who haven’t yet finished growing and developing.

If your baby is relying on that rice cereal, perhaps it’s time to consider switching to a cereal made from a different grain. May I suggest oatmeal? Try it with pureed pear or banana. That’s my favourite.

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44 thoughts on “Is Your Baby Eating Poison?

  1. Wow I had no idea that organic/naturally ocurring arsenic was present in rice. Its a little scary to think that we give our little ones so many rice based snacks, not knowing (most of us) that this is the case. Its definitely making me rethink about how much rice I give my little ones going forwards! Emily #DreamTeam

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  2. I had heard this about rice, and actually we began to lower the intake of rice cakes etc as professionals at nursery quite some time ago. Both Amelia and Wills are partial to a rice cake here and there, but I am always aware of intake. Wills suggests blended up raspberries in oatmeal; that’s his fave 😉 #stayclassymama

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    • That’s good to hear. I’m glad changes are being made. You’re absolutely right that it’s safe to consume rice in moderation. Just not something to have every day. Thanks for reading.

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    • I think the information became known around that time as that’s about when I came across it too. Peachy has been eating mostly oatmeal for her cereal and has been very happy with it. She also loves her Cheerios.

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    • Little people are more vulnerable but arsenic isn’t good for any of us. We all need to monitor our consumption of rice. It’s safe to consume in moderation but should not be an every day indulgence. We’ve been pretty happy with the oatmeal too. Thanks for visiting.

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    • It’s safe to have some rice but it’s definitely not something to have every day. I agree that more people need to be made aware of this issue. Thanks for visiting.

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  3. I had no idea that this was an issue, I’m so glad you’ve written about it. I definitely think professionals should inform more people about this! Thanks so much for sharing with #Blogstravaganza, hope to see you again next week xx

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    • Globally it is a huge issue. There are many cultures which have rice as a staple of their cuisine. It’s perfectly safe to have the occasional serving of rice but it’s not good to have it every day. This issue needs more awareness.

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    • I remember a time when rice cakes were marketed as the healthy and low fat alternative to all those fatty snacks. Turns out we were being led astray. The occasional rice cake won’t hurt but definitely something that needs to be monitored. Thanks for reading.

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  4. Wow did not realise that at all!!! Its scary what is actually in our food and what we ingest!! Both my children are through that stage but I will certainly keep in mind for friends who go onto have children. x #Blogstravaganza

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    • It’s definitely important to watch out for when feeding babies and toddlers, but arsenic isn’t good for any of us. We all need to be aware of how much we’re ingesting and limit our consumption of rice.

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    • We enjoy rice too. It’s ok to have in moderation but ever since learning about this issue I make sure to limit how often I make it. I’m also very careful about all the baby snacks that I buy since so many are made with rice. I will occasionally buy them but again, I limit the ones containing rice.

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    • Very true. Sometimes I’m tempted to grow my own produce and keep a few chickens to be sure what we’re eating. But there’s no way we have the space for that. Thanks for visiting.

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  5. I heard about this and thankfully we weaned with oat based cereals and weetabix as she got older. Holly doesn’t like any cereal based food and is always been a toast girl! Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

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  6. I had heard of this rice and arsenic thing but I figured if it was really an issue the food standards authority wouldn’t let products be sold? #SharingtheBlogLove

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    • If that was true then you wouldn’t be able to buy salt either since eating too much of it can cause serious health issues. It’s up to us to inform ourselves and eat responsibly. Arsenic is found is most foods. Much like salt, it is safe in small quantities. The only people at risk are those who consume a lot of it. Unfortunately babies tend to be at high risk because of their small size and the fact that rice cereal and snacks are often a staple of their diet.

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    • Because the arsenic comes from the ground and water, I don’t think it makes much difference if it’s organic or not. Some areas of the world are less contaminated. Buying rice grown there is an option but this information isn’t always clearly written on packaging. Rinsing rice before cooking it helps to remove some of the arsenic, and cooking it with extra water and then draining it like pasta is supposed to help too. Thanks for reading.

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  7. Ah i’ve not heard about this before! Mine are all past weaning now (And somehow survived my lack of knowledge!) but I’ll keep it in mind should there be a next time! Thanks for joining us at #SundayBest, hope to see you again tomorrow! x

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    • This really applies to all of us. There is no need to completely ban rice and rice products but it’s not good for anyone to consume too much of it. We all need to be mindful of what we eat. Thanks for visiting.

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  8. This is yet another frightening aspect of life in this food chain. Crazy when you think something good for you, and a staple for most can be so harmful. Scarier still when so few of us are aware while so many government agencies know the deal. Your food should nourish and heal, not fill and kill. Oy vey moment… #Fabfridaypost Thanks for sharing this!

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    • Rice is such a staple in some cultures. It’s so unfortunate that many of the people who consume it every day don’t have access to things such as the internet and will never know how harmful rice can be. It’s those people and babies who are most at risk as they tend to eat rice products every day. Thanks for reading.

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    • I was surprised to learn about this too. Luckily we found out all about it before we started weaning. Now I limit rice to no more than once a week. Sometimes it’s hard because it’s the first ingredient in so many baby snacks. I always make sure to read those labels. Thanks for reading.

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