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Final Report Summary - RICENIC (Risk assessment of inorganic arsenic in EU rice-based infant products and strategies to reduce exposure)

The RICENIC project (Risk assessment of inorganic arsenic in EU rice base-infants products and strategies to reduce exposure) aims to provide risk assessment of inorganic arsenic exposure to EU infants and young children and to devise feasible strategies to reduce inorganic arsenic burden in rice-based infant products. A database of arsenic speciation in rice-based products, including baby rice, rice crackers, and rice cereals, marketed in the EU and consumed by infants and young children have been created and the inorganic arsenic concentrations have been compared to the new EU law on the maximum level of inorganic arsenic established on 1st January 2016. Up to 73% of the rice-based samples addressed specifically for infants and young children (baby rice and rice crackers) analysed after the EU regulation did not comply with the law and exceeded the maximum EU level of inorganic arsenic for rice destined for the production of food for infants and young children (0.100 mg/kg). Rice cereals had also high levels of inorganic arsenic and although they are widely consumed by children, they are allowed to have higher inorganic arsenic under the EU law since their packaging do not specifically state that they are intended for infants and young children. Urinary arsenic speciation analyses were carried out as a biomarker to evaluate early life inorganic arsenic exposure in the EU at 5 stages: pregnant women (1st trimester of pregnancy), babies before weaning, babies after weaning, 4 and 7-year-old children. Urinary pregnant women samples had similar levels of inorganic arsenic to their children at 4 and 7-year-old, which means that children may be chronically exposed to this toxic element even before being born since inorganic arsenic can readily cross the placenta. Urinary inorganic arsenic concentration varied geographically in children 4-year-old samples. Diet is expected to be the most influenced factor. Indeed, urinary samples of babies before weaning being formula fed had significantly higher arsenic concentration than those breastfed. The inorganic arsenic burden must be kept as low as possible, below the maximum limit established in all rice-based products destined and consumed by infants and young children. It is advisable to use polished rice in rice-based product for infants and young children as this type of rice has significantly less inorganic arsenic than whole rice grain. The geographical variation of inorganic arsenic in paddy field samples and commercial rice samples from the Iberian Peninsula in Europe has been studied and paddy field areas with low inorganic arsenic rice have been identified. Rice with a low concentration of inorganic arsenic should be selected to manufacture food for infants and young children. A cooking methodology that is able to remove circa 90% of the inorganic arsenic burden from individual rice and rice bran samples has been developed and its implementation in the rice-based infant products manufacturing processes would significantly reduce the inorganic arsenic concentration. Rice and rice based products with low inorganic arsenic could potentially be sold as premium products, which highlights the potential socio-economic impact of the RICENIC project. Food Standard Agencies have already taken advantage of the results of the RICENIC project, which have been applied to assess early life inorganic arsenic exposure in several EU countries and to take actions to minimise health risks for the most vulnerable subpopulations.
The blog of the RICENIC project is:

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United Kingdom