A new US study reports that arsenic has been found in infant formulas that use organic brown rice syrup as a sweetener. ©Dimitrios Rizopoulos/shutterstock.com

(Relaxnews) – A new US study published last week reports that arsenic has been found in some foods that use organic brown rice syrup as a sweetener, including toddler formula and cereal and energy bars.

According to researchers from Dartmouth College, the type of arsenic found in the products has been identified as a carcinogen and can cause a host of problems ranging from skin irritation to infertility. Arsenic is a known contaminant in rice because it absorbs arsenic from the soil.

The study found arsenic in two of 17 toddler formulas tested — with one sample having an arsenic concentration six times the US limit (10 parts per billion) allowed in water.

Twenty-two of 29 cereal and energy bars tested listed at least one of these four rice products — organic brown rice syrup, rice flour, rice grain or rice flakes — among the top five ingredients. The seven other bars were among the lowest in total arsenic, ranging from 8 to 27 parts per billion, while those containing syrup or other forms of rice ranged from 23 to 128 parts per billion. The study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Brian Jackson, Ph.D. and lead author of the study, advices that those who consume a lot of rice, including people on gluten-free diets, try to add variety to their diet and check ingredient labels, since many gluten-free products are rice based.

Parents can also reduce their child’s dietary arsenic exposure by limiting the use of formula that has organic brown rice syrup as a main ingredient.

Another study by Dartmouth researchers published this January found some rice-fortified baby foods, such as fruit and vegetable purees for babies, ranged from less than 1 ppb up to 22 ppb of arsenic, the majority of which was the carcinogenic form.

For cereal bars, eating one occasionally shouldn’t pose much risk, Jackson adds, but if you consume them regularly, it’s something to keep in mind — even seemingly small exposures from juice, rice, or rice-fortified foods add up.

(A previously published version of this story referred to “infant formula” rather than “toddler formula” throughout. In the manuscript of the study originally published online in Environmental Health Perspectives, the two formulas containing organic brown rice syrup were incorrectly identified as infant formula when they are in fact toddler formula. The study text has likewise been amended.)