A rice baby cereal recall at all Walmart stores is underway after a routine test sampling conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed that the products contain high levels of inorganic arsenic.
Maple Island Inc., the Parent's Choice rice cereal manufacturer, issued a voluntary recall of their products sold after April 5, 2021. These contaminated baby food items belong to three lots with UPC code #00681131082907 and expiration dates covering June 24 and 25, 2022, and November 30, 2021.
Walmart has also pulled out the stocks from all of its stores while the company registered a block on the sales to ensure that the baby food will no longer be in the market.
While no illnesses had been reported after ingesting the food, the company deemed it best to stop the sales of the lot "out of an abundance of caution." The FDA also made it clear that this recall has impacted no other Parent's Choice products.
Risks of Arsenic Poisoning
Arsenic is a naturally growing mineral in the environment and may impact the soil, water, and air cultivated. In most cases, concerning levels of arsenic are not found in food, but traces of the mineral could still be present in rice plants, a cereal's main ingredient, and other crops.
Inorganic arsenic is a simple molecule that does not contain carbon yet could be highly toxic compared to a harmless organic arsenic compound. Fish and other food sources in the sea have concentrates of organic arsenic, and its toxicity levels are quite low, so it's very safe for eating. On the other hand, the poison used to kill rats in the sewers of Paris contains inorganic arsenic compounds.
According to the World Health Organization, inorganic arsenic is a carcinogen. Symptoms of poisoning from this mineral include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. Long-term high levels of exposure to this substance may result in changes in the skin's pigmentations and hyperkeratosis. It may also trigger skin cancer and other cancers impacting the bladder and kidneys.
Experts from Dartmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program learned that arsenic poisoning in babies could lead to lower IQ, impaired brain development and growth problems, low immune system, respiratory problems, and cancer in adulthood. This is a huge concern for young children since their tiny bodies could absorb three times more food with arsenic per pound of body weight.
Action from House Oversight Committee, FDA
The U.S. House Oversight Committee report indicated that rice ingredients should be avoided in baby food because of their inorganic arsenic content. The committee's investigations found that many commercial baby food products in the market are tainted with this mineral, as well as lead, mercury, and cadmium.
Thus, the committee ordered random and mandatory tests of baby food products as part of its regulation. In accordance with the House directive, the FDA also established a task force to conduct tests and research to ensure that baby food products maintain their quality and comply with the nutritional standards.
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