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The Food and Drug Administration has announced that baby food manufacturer Maple Island had issued a voluntary, nationwide recall of three lots of its 8-ounce Parent’s Choice rice baby cereal after a sample tested above the FDA’s guidance for inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen. The products were tested as part of a routine sampling program by the FDA. No illnesses have been reported.

A recall of rice baby food sold at Walmart has been ordered. Photo courtesy of Consumer Reports.

Parent’s Choice rice baby cereal is sold at Walmart. The retailer said that it had pulled the recalled baby food from store shelves out of an abundance of caution.

The recall notice says Maple Island’s tests of both the raw materials and the finished rice cereal product showed that they were “in compliance with the FDA’s guidelines,”

Earlier this year the FDA said it was making a concerted effort to reduce “certain” heavy metals in baby food. A recent government report found startlingly high levels of these metals in some foods made by a variety of baby food manufacturers. Since then, the FDA sent letters to manufacturers of baby food as a reminder of their responsibility to consider the hazards of toxic elements such as lead and arsenic in their products.

This is the second recall by a manufacturer for elevated inorganic arsenic levels in rice cereal for babies in less than six months. Beech-Nut issued a recall in June 2021. Then it permanently withdrew its infant rice cereal market after routine testing showed elevated levels of arsenic.

Heavy metals in baby food is not a new problem. It has been documented for several years. 2018 tests of 50 nationally distributed baby and toddler foods by Consumer Reports found that two-thirds had worrisome levels of at least one type of heavy metal.

Those that don’t think that heavy metals are problem as a baby’s developing brain develops aren’t paying attention. Babies and young children may be particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of heavy metal exposure, which can lower IQ and is linked to behavior problems and ADHD, as well as an increased risk for skin and bladder cancer. Despite all the documented risks, the FDA has set limits for heavy metals such as lead and arsenic in a handful of foods — but for nothing else.

“We’ve reached a critical point,” says Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports. “The industry appears to be unable to control the issue, and the FDA’s go-slow regulatory approach is not serving the public interest.”

“Baby food manufacturers should consider pulling infant rice cereal from the market until they are able to implement effective mitigation measures to address inorganic arsenic,” he says. “Parents and caregivers deserve better.”

The FDA issued this alert. Consumer Reports said that Maple Island did not respond to their request for comment in time for publication.