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Arsenic fears sparks call for ORBS limits in organic foods

By Oliver Nieburg , 17-Feb-2012
Last updated on 17-Feb-2012 at 11:49 GMT2012-02-17T11:49:45Z

There is an urgent need to set regulatory limits for organic brown rice syrup (ORBS) found in organic food products over links to inorganic arsenic exposure, according to a study.

OBRS is used as a sweetener in organic foods and gluten-free products such as infant formula, cereal bars and energy shots. It is used as an alternative to high fructose corn syrup.

The study, ‘Arsenic, Organic Foods, and Brown Rice Syrup’, published online yesterday in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal, found that high quantities of arsenic could be found in many of these products.

Cancer risk

The researchers called the finding “particularly troubling given the non-threshold relationships between cancer risk and exposure to arsenic”.

There are currently no regulations applicable to inorganic arsenic in food in the US and EU. Only China has set a regulatory limit in food at 150 ng inorganic arsenic per gram of rice.

The research by Brian Jackson et al assessed arsenic content in commercially available products containing ORBS, including infant formula, cereal bars and energy shots.

They found high concentrations of arsenic and dimethylarsentae in many of these products that could put consumers at risk.

Limits needed

“Our findings suggest that the OBRS products we evaluated may introduce significant concentrations of Asi [arsenic]I to an individual’s diet. Thus, we conclude that there is an urgent need for regulatory limits on Asi in food,” said the study.

The researchers said that consumers of organic products would be particularly interested in the finding as they had made conscious healthy eating choices by going organic.

Products tested were ordered online or in stores and included three brown rice syrups, 17 infant formulas, 29 cereal bars and three high energy performance products.

The authors’ survey of 100 cereal bars, found that around a third contained ORBS.

Although arsenic in ORBS infant formulas did not, on average, exceed Chinese limits, the researchers said there was “cause for concern”.

For the study in full, see HERE.

Jackson BP, Taylor VF, Karagas MR, Punshon T, Cottingham KL 2012. Arsenic, Organic Foods, and Brown Rice Syrup. Environ Health Perspect

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