A group of researchers at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society recently announced the results of a rice analysis and the news is less than encouraging. The researchers examined rice imported from Asia, Europe and South America and found that all of the rice contained unacceptably high levels of lead. The most contaminated rice was imported from Taiwan and China, although rice from the Czech Republic, Bhutan, Italy, India and Thailand also had high and possibly harmful levels of lead. Imported rice only makes up about 7% of rice consumed in America, but the bad news is that just a little lead in your child’s body can be very harmful. Also, the researchers note that some of the highest lead levels were found in baby food containing rice. Tsanangurayi Tongesayi, Ph.D., who took the lead on this study, points out, “Such findings present a situation that is particularly worrisome given that infants and children are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead poisoning. For infants and children, the daily exposure levels from eating the rice products analyzed in this study would be 30-60 times higher than the FDA’s provisional total tolerable intake levels.” The researchers also note that because Asian Americans eat more rice, Asian infants and children may be exposed to rice lead levels that are 60-120 times higher than other Americans.

If you’re concerned, the best thing to do is buy U.S. grown rice, but due to research last year that found unreasonably high levels of arsenic in even U.S. grown rice, it’s also smart to limit your little one’s overall rice intake to no more than one serving per day. In fact, you may want to skip rice baby cereal altogether as finger food may be better. If you want a cleaner whole grain cereal for your child, last year’s rice arsenic study found that oatmeal and wheat contain fewer contaminants than rice.

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