09/25/2012 05:26 pm ET Updated Nov 25, 2012

High Levels of Arsenic Found in Rice

The FDA and Consumer Reports recently released lab reports detailing just how much arsenic is in rice products -- and found that many brands contain more arsenic in a single serving than what the EPA allows in a quart of drinking water.

Yes, you read that right: More arsenic in a single serving than in one quart of water.

This follows news from February, when a Dartmouth College study found arsenic in infant formula and cereal bars that used organic rice syrup as a sweetener, according to Consumer Reports.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring substance found in air, water and soil. Exposure to high levels of arsenic can be carcinogenic; the substance is a neurotoxin that affects brain development in young children, especially. Unfortunately, scientists don't yet know whether or not arsenic bio-accumulates -- meaning builds up in the body over time, rather than flushing out through normal bodily functions.

The FDA has not yet set a food limit for organic and inorganic arsenic (which is considered more dangerous), although they plan to do so within the next three months, according to the Boston Globe.

And although the FDA recommended not changing eating habits until their analysis is complete, Consumer Reports released a list of the highest offenders for shoppers to avoid: Martin Long Grain Brown rice, followed by Della Basmati Brown, Carolina Whole Grain Brown, Jazzmen Louisiana Aromatic Brown, and Whole Foods' 365 Everyday Value Long Grain Brown.

Consumer Reports also recommended that people eat no more than three servings a week of rice products and no more than two servings a week of rice, and that children eat just one serving a week of other rice foods and avoid rice drinks altogether.

So where does that leave the mom whose shopping list includes rice cereal and/or formula?

Babies are most at risk for exposure to arsenic, since formula may be their only source of food and they may consume more arsenic per pound than adults. In February, doctors recommend not buying formulas with organic brown rice syrup as the main ingredient, according to ABC news.

Separately, parents can reduce arsenic exposure in general by making sure the water their families drink -- and that they mix with powdered formula -- is arsenic-free. Check the Environmental Working Group's National Drinking Water Database to find out if arsenic is a concern where you live.

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