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FSAI Advises Against Consumption of Rice Milk for Infants and Young Children

Monday, 25 May 2009

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today advised that as a precautionary measure, infants and young children up to 4.5 years old should not consume rice milk as substitutes for cows’ milk, breast milk or infant formula.  This advice is based on recent findings that indicate that there are low levels of inorganic arsenic found in rice milk.  Parents of young children who are currently using rice milk as an alternative to cow’s milk, breast milk or infant formula, should contact their GP or dietician for advice on a suitable alternative. 

A recently published UK study examined 60 samples of rice drinks, the results showed low levels of inorganic arsenic were found in all of the 60 samples of rice drinks tested.  Whilst the results of this study showed arsenic levels below the legal limit for Ireland, the FSAI recommends that infants and young children up to 4.5 years are not exposed to these products.  Arsenic is present in the environment and, therefore, can be present in a range of foods, including rice, at low levels.  The toxicity of arsenic depends on the form in which it is present, this being either organic or inorganic.  The inorganic form is the more toxic form and the FSAI states that exposure to this should be kept as low as reasonably practicable.

Dr Mary Flynn, Chief Specialist Public Health Nutrition, FSAI said that young children drink a relatively large amount of milk compared to their body weight and, therefore, are potentially exposed to higher relative amounts of arsenic that may be present.
“We assure parents that there is no immediate risk to their children if they have consumed these products, as the levels of exposure are extremely low.  As a precaution, to reduce exposure to inorganic arsenic, parents should not give these drinks to infants and young children up to 4.5 years.  Older children and adults can continue to consume rice milk as their exposure is lower relative to their body weight,” said Dr Flynn.

The FSAI has contacted relevant hospitals and dieticians to inform them of this latest guidance.


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