Beech-Nut Nutrition is recalling some infant rice cereal sold nationwide because samples of the product showed excessive levels of arsenic. The baby food maker also says it will stop selling the product over worries it won’t be able to comply with federal limits on levels of arsenic and other toxic substances that are called heavy metals.
The recall came after testing found samples contained more than the guidance level for naturally occurring inorganic arsenic set by the Food and Drug Administration last year.
“Exposure to elevated levels of naturally occurring inorganic arsenic can pose a health hazard to young children,” the notice posted by the FDA stated. The agency in April announced plans to propose.
“We are issuing this voluntary recall because we learned through routine sampling by the State of Alaska that a limited quantity of Beech-Nut Single Grain Rice Cereal products had levels of naturally occurring inorganic arsenic above the FDA guidance level, even though the rice flour used to produce these products tested below the FDA guidance level for inorganic arsenic,” Jason Jacobs, Beech-Nut’s vice president of food safety and quality, said in a statement.
A congressional report fin February found that baby food produced by several of the country’s largest manufacturers were. The report said those products have “significant levels” of substances including lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury. The metals can be especially dangerous to babies’ and toddlers’ brain development.
No illnesses related to the recalled products have been reported, according to Beech-Nut.
Beech-Nut’s recall drew praise from consumer advocates.
“We’ve known for years that toxic heavy metals are found in popular baby foods and can lead to serious health problems in children over time,” Brian Ronholm, director of food policy for Consumer Reports, said Wednesday in a statement. “We need strict limits to keep dangerous heavy metals out of the food that so many parents serve their young children every day.”
Consumer Reports has urged Congress to pass the Baby Food Safety Act of 2021, which would require the FDA to adopt strict limits on heavy metals, including lead and mercury, in all infant food.
The Beech-Nut Single Grain Rice product being recalled has the UPC Code number 52200034705, an expiration date of May 1, 2022, and product codes 103470XXXX and 093470XXXX. (The expiration date and product numbers can be found at the bottom of the Beech-Nut Single Rice Cereal canister, the company said.)
Consumers should discard the recalled product or go to www.beechnut.com/ricecereal. They can also call (866) 272-9417, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., for information on obtaining an exchange or refund.
Beech-Nut also said it is exiting the market for infant rice cereal because of concerns about its “ability to consistently obtain rice flour well-below the FDA guidance level and Beech-Nut specifications for naturally occurring inorganic arsenic,” the company said.
The upstate New York manufacturer has been making food for babies and toddlers since 1931. Its other baby and toddler food products include jars of pureed vegetables and fruits, meat broths, and canisters of oatmeal cereal.
Heavy metals can find their way into fruits and vegetables from soil or water contaminated by sources including pesticides and fertilizers. Exposure to heavy metals can harm both adults and children, but babies and toddlers are especially vulnerable given their smaller size and developing brains. Exposure over time can result in neurodevelopmental disabilities including autism in children, experts say.
The FDA intends to review the latest science, set maximum acceptable levels and monitor compliance by baby food makers, the agency said in outlining a multiyear strategy dubbed “Closer to Zero.” Regulators plan to draft a standard for maximum levels of lead in baby food by April 2022 and for arsenic by April 2024, with a final ruling on lead coming by April 2024 followed by one for arsenic. The agency said it would also gather and review data on cadmium and mercury.