Arsenic in rice cakes?

I read a post on Facebook yesterday that stopped me in my tracks. The article stated that are high levels of arsenic in rice cakes and they are therefore not recommended for consumption by young children. WHAT!!!!! (grabs half eaten rice cake out of three year old’s hand).

There are so many conflicting health claims and scares these days that I tend to approach them all with a massive dose of scepticism. However I checked what the Food Standards Agency to see what information is available in relation to rice cakes and arsenic. I was a bit incredulous that this health claim could be true.  I figured the FSA as a government organisation should be a credible source of information.

I thought it might be useful to pass on the information that I have found out regarding arsenic in rice products – please bear in mind that I am in no way claiming to be an expert.

Arsenic in rice cakes

Arsenic is present in soil and is absorbed by plants as they grow. The amount of arsenic that is present in different types of food varies significantly. Rice tends to take up more arsenic from the environment in comparison to other cereal crops.  Having too much arsenic in your diet is potentially harmful to health and could increase the risk of illness including cancer. This is not about being at immediate risk but about the cumulative effects of eating food containing high levels of arsenic over time.

Food Standards Agency Advice

The FSA is involved in work in Europe to set enforceable EU maximum limits for arsenic in rice and rice products. The FSA view is that there should be more stringent limits for rice products that are intended for infants and young children. The FSA is continuing to investigate the levels of arsenic in food for babies and children which research due to be published this year.  The FSA specifically advise that toddlers and young children (aged 1 to 4.5 years old) should not drink rice milk as an alternative to breast milk, formula or cows milk.

Information from the FSA is available here

Swedish National Food Agency

In 2015 the Swedish National Food Agency investigated 102 different rice based products to look at the arsenic content. Findings indicated that rice cakes contain more arsenic than other rice products. The Swedish National Food Agency advise that children under the age of 6 should not eat rice cakes at all. There is similar health advice in Germany.

Here is a link to an article reporting the findings of the Swedish study.

My rice cake loving children

As I said already I am not a scientist, a nutritionist or an expert. However reading the various sources of apparently credible information has made me think about the food choices that I make for kids.

My kids have, until today, eaten lots of rice cakes – they will have them most days as snacks and have done so since they were very little. I always thought that giving rice cakes to my kids was a healthy option. I was happy that they were not full of salt and sugar and assumed that as they are marketed as children’s foods they were a great snack. I was reassured that the ingredients in rice cakes are reassuringly short and simple (predominantly wholegrain rice).  I’m now  feeling pretty rubbish about how many rice cakes my kids have been eating!

Looking at alternatives

I have decided that from now on I’m not going to give me kids any rice cakes. I took a trip to my local supermarket today to try and figure out what would be an alternative healthy snack. I had the kids to me which made really studying all of the food labels a bit of a challenge! They like corn cakes so I think these will work as an alternative to rice cakes. I’ve also bought some different types of Ryvita and crackers to see if the kids like these. I will need to look at the nutritional information on these in a bit more detail. It appears that some brands of crackers have quite high levels of salt so I want to avoid these.

I’ve also looked at alternatives to the rice based cereals that the kids frequently eat. This was also a challenge as a lot of brands have lots of sugar in them. We have a different type of cereal to try out over the next week. I will look into the nutritional information of the different cereals available to see what other alternatives there are.

Please take a look at the information available on arsenic in rice products and make up your own mind. From what I’ve read from a number of different sources I’m concerned enough to rethink my kids eating rice cakes and rice based cereals.

20 thoughts on “Arsenic in rice cakes?

  1. To be honest, rice cakes aren’t something I’ve ever given to O as I find them so unappealing! I can’t really see much of a nutritious benefit, other than just carbohydrates which could be found in wholegrain bread as toast or crackers – which at least wouldn’t contain arsenic! x
    Steph recently posted…How to Get Rid of a Cold During PregnancyMy Profile

    1. My kids have been eating loads of rice cakes – they love them. We are experimenting with some alternatives.

  2. I saw this and then saw an article about how small amounts are normal and it’s a really small level, I don’t know, but Taylor loves rice cakes and kids have been eating them forever and been fine so I’m going to worry. x

    1. I’m going to do some further research to really understand what is a normal/healthy level – it is hard to know what to believe but this has concerned me enough to try some alternative snacks.

    1. It has concerned me enough to change my food choices (especially as the health advice is from credible sources rather than from the press).

  3. This is frightening! I can’t believe what I’m reading here. I wonder if the same is true of the organic rice cakes? I’m glad you have shared this because I hadn’t heard of this! I’ll share on my social media to help spread the word. You just never know what you’re eating!! x
    Becky, Cuddle Fairy recently posted…January 2016 at a GlanceMy Profile

    1. I would definitely suggest that you have a read of the information available – the Swedish study is very informative and seems credible.

  4. Ah this is a tough one… yes, it is surprising and we should know what is in our food but on the other hand, if we listened to these stories or stories about what gives you cancer (what doesn’t give you cancer nowadays?!) then we probably wouldn’t eat at all! Saying that, it is important to know what we are eating and make our own choices and decisions.

    Gemma xx
    Gemma @ A Gem’s Life recently posted…My 10 Favourite Movies EVER!My Profile

    1. Health and nutrition information is a bit of a minefield isn’t it. There is a channel 4 Dispatches programme about arsenic in rice/rice products so I’m going to try and search it out to see what information that gives.

    1. I thought they were really healthy as not full of sugar and salt and because they were whole grain. I’m not going to buy them anymore especially as there are alternative snacks to choose.

  5. This is an interesting post. I don’t buy rice cakes at home so my girls don’t eat them from me but I’ve noticed that this is what they are given at nursery. Sienna is only there for a couple of weeks this is what the kids eat at their morning and afternoon snacks. To be honest it is really shocking what you are saying but at the same time I wouldn’t expect the nurseries that have to follow national guidelines on food for children to be given food to the kids that are not good for them. So I’m not completely sure what to believe. Also they provide them with rice krispies for breakfast and it is one of Bella’s favourite cereals since she was also at nursery. This is a controversial subject. I will be cautious about it now that I’m aware of this possible problem. Thanks for sharing Sarah. 🙂 xx
    A Moment with Franca recently posted…Leap Year Giveaway – Win £50 ($74) Amazon Voucher or PayPal CashMy Profile

    1. When I first read this I thought it was just another health scare story but it is interesting that in Sweden and Germany the national health advice is not to give rice cakes to young children which has made me rethink my food choices.

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