Bland, digestible rice cereal has long been a favored first food, but a recent FDA proposal to limit the amount of inorganic arsenic in rice cereal will surely cause parents to think twice before giving this baby staple to their tots. The FDA proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion after a study found an average of 103 parts per billion in infant and toddler rice cereals and concern grew about the long-term health effects this chemical could have on babies and young kids as they grow. Eating more inorganic arsenic could result in elevated cancer risk, learning problems, and decreased performance on certain developmental tests. And for those of us who typically equate brown rice with a healthier eating choice, this is one situation where buying a brown rice product may actually be counter-intuitive: brown rice has more arsenic than white because white rice is processed to remove the “germ,” a place where arsenic can accumulate. Rice is, unfortunately, a prime food for absorbing arsenic in general since it is grown in and uses lots of water. You can lower your child’s risk of eating high levels of arsenic (and yours as well) by diversifying your diet to include other grain cereals, such as oats and barley, and serving healthy finger foods as first baby foods. Maybe this is an obvious question, but why is the FDA only instituting a limit now? High levels of arsenic have been found in rice, in baby formulas and cereal bars, and in apple and grape juice for years. Can we just go ahead and make a blanket rule that limits arsenic (or bans it) in every food and drink? In the meantime, we’ll be limiting the amount of rice and rice-based foods our family consumes and focusing on as many organic fruits and veggies as possible.