Jay Highman, the CEO and president of Nature’s One, an Ohio company that made the nation’s first organic baby formula, says he was concerned when a study published in February implicated his formula as containing arsenic. The problem: organic brown rice syrup, one of the ingredients.

Jay Highman, the CEO and president of Nature’s One

Jay Highman, the CEO and president of Nature’s One

“We had always been known for having the highest standards for the cleanest, purest ingredients, and overnight we became a poster child for arsenic in rice,” Highman says. He resolved that he would find a way to eliminate arsenic contamination in the rice syrup.

Jay Highman’s company makes dairy-and soy-based formulas

Jay Highman’s company makes dairy-and soy-based formulas

Highman searched for the purest source for rice and found that he had to go outside of the U.S to find rice with the lowest possible arsenic content. He declined to disclose his source for fear larger companies “will start devouring our supply chain”. He worked with his syrup supplier to develop a filtration process that would eliminate detectable levels of arsenic.

By July, he said the combination of more pristine rice and the new filtration process produced brown rice syrup that met his goal. We included samples of two Nature’s One dairy formulas and one soy formula in our tests.

The original powdered samples we tested of dairy-and soy-based formulas had inorganic arsenic that averaged 40.6 ppb for dairy and 77.7 ppb for soy.

When we tested the new versions of the two dairy formulas, the levels were either undetectable or nearly so. The company says its new formulation has use-by dates of January 2014 (Dairy with DHA & ARA), July 2015 (Dairy), or later.

Highman says he has been reworking the soy formula and hopes to produce a product that has lower levels of arsenic. If he can’t get it lower, Highman says he will create a non-dairy formula without soy. Meanwhile, an interim soy version we tested did have somewhat lower levels of arsenic, but it had higher levels of cadmium, another toxin.

How to cut your arsenic risk

How to cut your arsenic risk

Test your water

If your home is not on a public water system, have your water tested for arsenic and lead. To find a certified lab, contact your local health department or call the federal Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791

Change the way you cook rice

You may be able to cut your exposure to inorganic arsenic in rice by rinsing raw rice thoroughly before cooking, using a ratio of 6 cups tater to 1 cup rice for cooking and draining the excess after afterward. That is a traditional method of cooking rice in Asia. The modern technique of cooking rice in water that is entirely absorbed by the grains has been promoted because it allows rice to retain more of its vitamins and other nutrients. But even though you may sacrifice some of rice’s nutritional value, research has shown that ringing and using more water removes about 30 per cent if the rice’s inorganic arsenic content.

Eat a varied diet

Some vegetables can accumulate arsenic when grown in contaminated soil. To help, clean vegetables thoroughly, especially potato skins. Some fruit juices such as apple and grape juice are high in arsenic, as our previous tests showed. To prevent obesity and tooth decay, pediatricians advise that infants younger than 6 months shouldn’t drink juice; children up to age 6 should have no more than 4 to 6 ounces a day and older children no more than 8 to 11 ounces. Like grape juice, wine also can be a source of exposure, according to data collected in the FDA’s Total Diet Study, which provides more complete information about arsenic content in a variety of foods. Go to fda.gov and search for “total diet study analytical results.”

Experiment with other grains

Vary your grains, especially if you eat more than two or three serving of rice per week. Though not arsenic-free, wheat and oats tend to have lower levels than rice. And quinoa, millet, and amaranth are among other options for those on a gluten-free diet, though they have not been studied as much.

Arsenic in food 

Arsenic in food

Listed in alphabetical order within category

 At least one sample exceeded New Jersey drinking water limit (5 micrograms of inorganic arsenic per liter)

Arsenic in food

Arsenic in food

 Includes organic and inorganic arsenic

 The sum of the arsenic species, arsenite, and arsenate

 Information on rice origin was not provided to us by the manufacturer.

For calculations of inorganic arsenic, all values reported as less than the reporting limits were applied as 100% of the reporting limits.

How to read the table

There is no federal limit for arsenic in most foods, but there is a federal limit of 10 parts per billion for arsenic in drinking water. The most protective standard in the country is New Jersey’s at 5ppb. At that limit, drinking a liter of water would expose you to 5 micrograms of inorganic arsenic. That provides a yardstick by which you can compare the ranges of inorganic arsenic per serving detected in the samples we tested of the products below. Overall, inorganic arsenic ranged in our samples from 11 percent to 87 percent of the total arsenic we found. The overall average was 55 percent.

Our tests don’t’ offer general conclusions about overall arsenic levels in any brands or rice product category. We tested at least three sample of products (many bought in the New York metro area and online in April and May). Serving sizes generally used are specified by the government for each category.

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