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LONDON Authentic Mikkel Boedker Jersey , May 5 (Xinhua) -- Almost half of baby rice food products contain illegal levels of inorganic arsenic, researchers from Queen's University in Belfast discovered in a study published Thursday.
Researchers at the university's Institute for Global Food Security found that little has changed despite the European Union introducing new regulation to tackle arsenic levels.
Some 50 percent of baby rice food products still contain an illegal level of inorganic arsenic, said the researchers.
In January 2016, the EU imposed a maximum limit of inorganic arsenic on manufacturers in a bid to mitigate associated health risks.
The researchers had tested 13 types of baby rice, 29 packets of rice cakes, and 31 types of rice cereal from nine different brands or manufacturers from 17 different shops in Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland.
Prof. Andy Meharg, lead author of the study and professor of Plant and Soil Sciences at Queen's, said: "This research has shown direct evidence that babies are exposed to illegal levels of arsenic."
"Babies are particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of arsenic that can prevent the healthy development of a baby's growth, IQ and immune system to name but a few," Meharg said.
A spokesman at Queen's said rice typically has ten times more inorganic arsenic than other foods.
The research findings were published in the PLOS ONE journal, indicating how researchers compared levels of arsenic in urine samples among infants who were breast-fed or formula-fed before and after weaning.
According to the results, higher concentration of arsenic was found in formula-fed infants, particularly among those who were fed non-dairy formulas, which includes rice-fortified formulas favored for infants with dietary requirements such as wheat or dairy intolerance.
The weaning process further increased infants' exposure to arsenic, with babies five times more exposed to arsenic after the weaning process, highlighting the clear link between rice-based baby products and exposure to arsenic, the report claimed.
Researchers also compared baby food products containing rice before and after the law was passed and discovered that higher levels of arsenic were in fact found in the products since the new regulations were implemented.
Nearly 75 percent of the rice-based products specifically marketed for infants and young children contained more than the standard level of arsenic stipulated by the EU law, said the university.
Meharg added: "Products such as rice-cakes and rice cereals are common in babies' diets. This study found that almost three-quarters of baby crackers, specifically marketed for children exceeded the maximum amount of arsenic."
He said manufacturers should be held accountable for selling products that are not meeting the required EU standard.
"Companies should publish the levels of arsenic in their products to prevent those with illegal amounts from being sold. This will enable consumers to make an informed decision, aware of any risks associated before consuming products containing arsenic," Meharg added.
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